Office of Hawaiian Affairs expands emergency financial assistance program
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs expanded its assistance available to Native Hawaiians to include car repairs, funeral expenses and out-of-pocket medical bills through its Ka Wailele Emergency Financial Assistance Program.
This is in addition to mortgage, rental and utility support already available through the program. Maximum awards also will be increased from $1,500 to $2,000.
In June 2021, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) made more than $1 million available to implement an emergency financial assistance program for Native Hawaiians. The Ka Wailele program is being administered by Hawaiʻi Community Lending, a nonprofit financial institution that specializes in providing loans to local residents with a focus on Native Hawaiians who cannot qualify at mainstream banks and credit unions.
Hawaiʻi Community Lending conducted community listening sessions to further identity financial needs of Native Hawaiians.
“We confirmed with data that applicants needed assistance with transportation to travel to work and school,” said Jeff Gilbreath, executive director of the lending institution. “Unfortunately, at the same time, family deaths and medical expenses directly or indirectly related to COVID-19 were becoming increasingly apparent as a need.”
Assistance is available for vehicle repairs and maintenance, but is not available for car registration. Funeral costs that are available for assistance include caskets, embalming, cremation, funeral services – and food and flower arrangements for funerals.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted our people and it is our hope that this emergency financial assistance from OHA can help ease some of the stress that our Native Hawaiian ‘ohana have experienced,” said OHA CEO Dr. Sylvia Hussey.
Native Hawaiians who are at least 18 years old and in financial hardship should review program requirements and apply. No income requirements pertain, but Native Hawaiians are limited in receiving OHA emergency financial assistance to one grant every two years.
Hawaiʻi Community Lending will process applications. Payments are made directly to landlords, mortgage lenders, utility providers, car repair shops, medical providers or funeral homes. Approved applicants will also have access to financial counseling, additional grants or affordable loans, and career coaching through Financial Opportunity Centers run by HCL’s parent corporation, Hawaiian Community Assets.
Native Hawaiians in financial hardship should apply online at www.oha.org/emergencyaid or www.kawailele.org. Persons without internet access or a computer can call 808-587-7656 to request a paper application or complete an application over the phone.
In-person assistance will be available at Financial Opportunity Centers and remote offices statewide.