Op-Ed: $35 Million Available for Local Rental, Mortgage & Utilities Assistance
Op-Ed commentary submitted by:
Yuki Lei K. Sugimura, Maui County Councilmember, Upcountry, Chair of the Infrastructure and Transportation Committee
Thursday, Sept. 1, 2021
Since Hawai‘i’s eviction moratorium expired on Aug. 6, the Centers for Disease Control issued a notice that their eviction order, issued on Aug. 3, would continue to apply to all counties across the state. However, just two days ago, on Aug. 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the CDC lacked the authority to issue such an order without direct authorization from Congress.
While the order was voided immediately, there is still a substantial amount of aid and assistance available. The nullification of the CDC order does not impact the funding already received by the County of Maui for rent, mortgage and utility relief. The County has received $40 million to help residents needing rental and mortgage assistance due to COVID-19.
To date, only 645 households have accessed money to avoid eviction and potential homelessness, leaving about $35 million still available.
I hosted an eviction moratorium roundtable on Aug. 13 to assist residents in understanding the different types of assistance available to both landlord and tenants. You can access a recording of the discussion and other information at mauicounty.us/sugimura.
“People have experienced real hardship over the last year and a half,” Housing and Human Concerns Director Lori Tsuhako said at the roundtable. “The help is there — please use it.”
Rental assistance is available for residents needing assistance as far back as March 31, 2020, and prospective rent into the future. Even though there are no longer any state or federal eviction moratoriums, mediation is mandatory before any court eviction filings per state law.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed House Bill 1376 to help both landlords and tenants. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Troy Hashimoto, temporarily makes mediation a requirement prior to any court eviction filing. The law extends the notice of termination of a rental agreement from 5 days to 15 to allow for mediation.
It also requires landlords to provide a copy of a notice of termination of a rental agreement to a mediation center that provides free landlord-tenant mediation at the same time the tenant is provided with the notice. The mediation center will then set up an appointment for both parties with mediation to be completed within 30 days from the receipt of the notice.
Maui Mediation Services encourages landlords and tenants to seek their support with mediation, applying for rental assistance and related services. You can also reach out to Maui Economic Opportunity or Catholic Charities Hawai‘i directly, and they will happily walk you through the application process.
Rental assistance funding is available to Maui County residents who qualify until Sept. 30. However, you must be proactive in seeking these funds and take the necessary steps to access help. If these funds go unused by the deadline, they will be reallocated throughout the state.
Although Hawaiian Electric Company ended their disconnection moratorium on May 31, they continue to work with customers to implement payment arrangements to help ensure their service is not interrupted. They encourage their customers to reach out if they are experiencing hardship, and they will do their best to work with you.
Here’s a list of resources available to assist residents with rental, mortgage or utility needs in Maui County:
- Legal Aid Society of Hawaii Maui Branch, 808-244-3731, legalaidhawaii.org
- Catholic Charities Hawaiʻi, 808-873-4673, catholiccharitieshawaii.org/housinghelp/ (rent, mortgage and utility relief)
- Maui Economic Opportunity, H.E.L.P Program, 808-249-2970, meoinc.org
- Hawaiian Electric Company, 808-871-7777 (Maui) or 808-871-8461 (Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi), hawaiianelectric.com/hawaiian-electrics-response-to-covid-19/covid-19
- County of Maui, Housing and Human Concerns, mauicounty.gov/mauirenthelp
- Maui Mediation Services, 808-344-4255, [email protected] or mauimediation.org
I encourage community members to share this information with friends and family. If you are in need, please seek assistance. For more information, contact my office at 808-270-7939 or call me directly at 808-870-8047.
*****Views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author’s alone and do not reflect or represent the opinions, policies or positions of Maui Now.*****