Gov. Green unveils upcoming important dates involving Maui fire recovery
September 21, 2023, 11:15 AM HST
* Updated September 22, 5:50 AM
Governor Josh Green highlighted upcoming important dates involving Maui wildfire survivors as the island transitions from response to recovery.
“I’m here to tell you on Day 44, our hearts are still broken—they are broken 97 times over,” said Gov. Green, noting that 97 people have been lost today, 80 of whom have been identified. There are now 23 active investigations into missing persons reports for unaccounted for individuals filed with the Maui Police Department.
Sept. 25: Marks beginning of reentry
A total of 15,931 people have registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The number is much larger than the amount of people who have been displaced because the effects of the disaster extended beyond the impact zone. This included lost businesses and the inability to access properties impacted by the disaster.
To date nearly 700 homes within the impact zone have been processed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The first date for reentry for about two dozen addresses in Zone 1C begins on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023.
The Federal government has already authorized a 90/10 split for the US Army Corp of Engineers contract, which is estimated to cost between $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion, according to Gov. Green.
Gov. Green said 18 months of rental assistance is available through FEMA and reassured displaced residents that they would not become homeless after transitioning out of hotels, which he called a “safety net.”
A total of 7,996 people are currently housed across 40 hotel properties. “Over time, that will change. We will move people over to longer-term rentals and different circumstances that will make their lives better,” said Gov. Green.
Sept. 26: Details surrounding a replacement site for King Kamehameha III
Gov. Green said plans are underway to construct a replacement site for King Kamehameha III Elementary School, which was burned beyond repair during the Aug. 8 wildfire. Further details will be shared at a press conference planned for Tuesday, Sept. 26 in Lahaina.
“I have authorized resources… I think it’s central to healing to have education for our keiki. We are in discussions with the DOE, the head of the Board, [and] the community,” said Gov. Green.
Sept. 29: Safe Harbor ends
Another important approaching date is Sept. 29, which marks the end of the Safe Harbor period. “As part of the Red Cross non-congregate shelter program, there is a period referred to as Safe Harbor, during which eligibility requirements for FEMA disaster assistance do not apply. By Sept. 29, the Red Cross will gather eligibility data on survivors in their care to help them determine the next steps in their recovery,” according to a County update.
Oct. 8: Formal reopening of West Maui
Oct. 8 was the next date floated, which was the date given for the more formal reopening of West Maui—excluding the inundation/burn zone.
“There’s nothing magic to that, except it was two months from when the fire occurred, and we have to just begin to heal,” said Gov. Green.
“We expect very few travelers overall too West Maui during that time, but I know it causes some concern,” said Gov. Green. “We learned the lesson in COVID—if you’re not clear about when people can come back, if you’re not clear about when you open, the mainland and the world don’t understand the difference between one island and another. They don’t understand the difference between West Maui or Kīhei.”
“Again, we’re going to be very compassionate to those who lost their homes. We’re going to make sure that they have places to stay, and not get displaced, but we have to start. I think October will be a very slow month, which it is automatically in Hawaiʻi, and I think by the time we get to Thanksgiving and Christmas, people will be grateful that you have enough revenue to keep them in their jobs, pay for the school we have to build, pay for their services, and take care of people,” said Gov. Green.
“It’s going to be a little bumpy, but we’re going to care for people and it’s going to be a big lift,” said Gov. Green, noting that at least 8,000 people will need to be rehoused.
The full press conference can be viewed HERE.
Update were also provided by James Kunane Tokioka, Director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; Cathy Betts, director of the state Department of Human Services Director; Adam Runkle, American Red Cross Deputy Coordinating Officer; and representatives from the Hawai‘i Community Foundation.