Maui News

Legislature Provides $60 Million for Big Island Disaster Relief

April 13, 2019, 10:46 AM HST
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Hawaiʻi lawmakers recently voted to pass House Bill 1180 HD1, which will provide an additional $60 million in relief funding for Hawaiʻi Island residents impacted by the devastating Kīlauea eruption that destroyed homes, farms, and infrastructure last year.

“The people of Puna and the Big Island are hurting and need our help,” Rep. Joy A. San Buenaventura of Puna said. “They are struggling just to secure their basic needs such as food, water, and a roof over their heads. We are hoping the county uses these funds wisely and will be able to leverage it with FEMA funds. My community has been hard hit and it is very difficult to rebuild.”

HB 1180 HD1 provides $20 million in state grants and $40 million in state loans with expected payback from the federal government. The state has already provided $22 million in emergency funds for Hawaiʻi Island Disaster relief.

According to Hawaiʻi County Council member Herbert M. “Tim” Richards III, the County Council is unified and committed to using these funds for rebuilding both the infrastructure and the economy.

“It is not just the physical damage but also the economic damage that we’ve had on the whole Big Island that needs to be repaired,” Richards said. “Estimates are that we suffered a $500 million loss in tourism. We have to rebuild that. We are looking at roads, tourism marketing, and jobs. It will take time, but we are moving forward reasonably quickly.”

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The Kīlauea eruption covered nearly 14 square miles in Puna, destroyed 716 homes, and made over three thousand parcels of land inaccessible. The eruption also destroyed a school, farms, cultural sites, roadways, water systems, recreational destinations, and a large portion of the electrical grid.

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House Speaker Scott K. Saiki said moving this bill through as quickly as possible was a priority for the Legislature. Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi agreed, stating, “we would not forget the Big Island this session.”

Sen. Russell Ruderman thanked President Kouchi for keeping that promise.

“Mahalo to my Senate and House colleagues who worked so hard on this bill,” Ruderman said. “It is a giant step toward providing much needed financial relief to the County of Hawaiʻi and residents of Puna, who have experienced extreme hardship over the past year in rebuilding their lives.”  

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More information on HB 1180 HD1 is available online.

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