More Than $330 Million in Federal Grants and Disaster Loans Provided to Support Response and Recovery Efforts
FEMA Administrator Criswell, SBA Administrator Guzman to travel to Maui to Meet with State and Local Officials and Discuss Ongoing Recovery Efforts
Six months after the start of the unprecedented wildfires on Maui, Hawaiʻi, the Biden-Harris Administration continues to support survivors and affected communities through a whole-of-government response and recovery effort. Since the onset of this tragedy, the Administration has provided more than $330 million in Federal grants and disaster loans to support response and recovery efforts, while hundreds of personnel from across dozens of Federal departments and agencies continue working with State and local partners on the ground to support Maui as it continues its long-term recovery. To mark the six-month anniversary, FEMA Administrator Criswell and SBA Administrator Guzman will travel to Maui this week to meet with State and local officials and discuss ongoing recovery efforts.
As President Biden made clear during his visit to Maui last August, the Biden-Harris Administration will continue to do everything in its power to help Maui recover and rebuild the way the people of Maui want, while respecting sacred lands, cultures, and traditions, for as long as it takes.
Here is an update on the Biden-Harris Administration’s coordinated Federal response and recovery efforts:
- More than 445 Federal personnel remain on the ground in Hawaiʻi, 232 of whom are on Maui, assisting residents in their greatest time of need. To ensure the effectiveness of Federal support, President Biden appointed Bob Fenton as his Chief Federal Response Coordinator. Fenton continues to lead the integrated response, recovery and rebuilding effort on Maui in coordination with State and local leadership.
- To date, the Biden-Harris Administration has approved more than $43.7 million in assistance to 7,013 households.
- In the wake of the wildfires, President Biden made additional disaster funding available to the state of Hawaiʻi, unlocking the Federal government’s ability to cover all eligible expenses for debris removal and emergency protective measures on Maui County and assistance for emergency protective measures for Hawaiʻi County. The President authorized the Federal cost share for debris removal to be increased from 75% to 100% for 180 days within the first 270 days of the incident. The President also authorized the Federal cost share for emergency protective measures to be increased to 100% of the total eligible costs for a 90-day period that the Governor selects within the first 180 days of the incident.
- Through its Direct Lease program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working to find and manage apartments, condominiums, and other suitable living quarters, which can be leased for survivors. FEMA has secured 1,404 leased properties for survivors. Some 162 households have been placed in temporary homes.
- Nearly 700 personnel from the Department of Defense and the U.S. Coast Guard have participated in the coordinated response to the Maui wildfires – from supporting aerial fire suppression and providing strategic air transportation, to assisting with potable water distribution and providing grief counseling and emotional support, to providing additional life-sustaining support.
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Honolulu Division continues its months-long effort to assist the Maui Police Department with their efforts to locate and identify victims of the wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii, by helping collect DNA samples from family members. The FBI, in coordination with the Maui Police Department, have reduced the number of unaccounted for missing persons to 3.
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to provide public works and engineering support, which includes debris collection and removal; the construction of a temporary elementary school campus for the Lahaina community, which benefits approximately 600 elementary school students; and managing the conceptual design, site preparation, and construction for approximately 400 – 600 temporary housing “pads” or places to put housing units on.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) remains on the ground on Maui to help restore and maintain safe drinking water, stormwater, and wastewater services. Arriving within days of the devastating wildfire, EPA personnel swiftly assessed the burn area; installed air monitors to protect the health of first responders; developed and executed first-in-the-nation protocols to safely dispose of electric vehicle and solar energy storage batteries damaged by the wildfires; protected air and water by stabilizing ash; and developed a precedent-setting approach to preserve cultural artifacts that honored the traditions of the native Hawaiians who have called Maui home for centuries. Throughout this initial phase, the agency had more than 300 responders working with Federal, state, local, and community cultural leaders to remove 200 tons of hazardous materials from over 1,400 properties. On November 30, 2023, the agency completed its mission to safely clean up and remove hazardous materials and transitioned work to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the next phase of the recovery process.
- The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved more than $290 million in Federal disaster loans for Hawaiʻi businesses and residents impacted by wildfires. The SBA continues to operate two Disaster Business Recovery Centers for survivors of the Maui wildfires and is part of the multi-agency presence at the Disaster Recovery Centers, assisting small businesses and most non-profits in all five counties. Information and details on the location of the business recovery center and disaster recovery centers are available by calling the SBA Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955. These Centers provide services to survivors, including homeowners, renters, and small business owners seeking financial assistance.
SBA is continuing outreach to businesses throughout Hawaiʻi to take advantage of the Physical Damage and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and staff are working with survivors in every major community throughout Maui through local assistance centers and a Center staff outreach campaign. To be considered for all forms of disaster assistance, including low-interest disaster loans from SBA, survivors must first register with FEMA.
- The U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is working with the Maui local housing agency to help rehouse public housing tenants in the wake of the fires. In addition, HUD is working to connect homeowners on Maui with resources from the Federal Housing Administration to support their relief in the wake of the disaster. HUD has also joined with the Hawaii Division of Financial Institutions, other Federal partners, and mortgage servicers to host a series of mortgage assistance events to connect homeowners on Maui with resources and other support. HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is also available to assist survivors who believe they have experienced housing discrimination.
In August 2023, HUD announced a $1.3 million funding allocation to help communities on Maui in the wake of the wildfires through the department’s new Rapid Unsheltered Survivor Housing (RUSH) program, a rapid response program to address homelessness by filling in Federal assistance gaps in communities hit by disasters. RUSH funding is available to help communities provide outreach, emergency shelter, rapid re-housing, and other assistance to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. HUD also provided a moratorium on foreclosures of Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgages and home equity conversion mortgages through May 6, 2024. Homeowners affected by the disaster should contact their mortgage or loan servicer immediately. They can also call the FHA Resource Center at 1-800-304-9320 for additional information and visit the FHA Disaster Relief site to learn more about disaster relief options for FHA homeowners.
Additionally, HUD also has released regulatory and administrative waivers to help communities accelerate their recovery. This includes funding for housing rehabilitation and reconstruction, homebuyer programs replacing disaster damaged residences, infrastructure improvements and assistance to people at risk of homelessness. HUD has assigned experienced Disaster Technical Assistance providers to support local leaders help communities and families that were experiencing homelessness before the devastating fires and those that may require homeless services because of the fires.
- The Department of the Interior (DOI) continues to work to protect natural and cultural resources on Maui in coordination with Federal and state partners. Immediately after the disastrous fires, DOI deployed a cultural advisor to ensure Federal personnel were properly trained to understand native Hawai’ian culture and build trust between the native Hawai’ian community and the Federal government. DOI personnel have continued to assist with assessment and recovery operations, including any impacts to wildlife habitats, like coral reefs, as well as monitoring the potential for debris-flow and ash sediment run-off. The Department remains in close contact with Native Hawaiian leaders and organizations to coordinate the availability of services, information, and culturally sensitive opportunities for engagement and healing.
- The Department of Energy (DOE) is working with State and local partners to implement a $95 million grant provided in August through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to harden Hawaiʻi’s electric grid. This grant is in addition to a $6 million grid resilience formula grant announced in June, also funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In the immediate aftermath of the devastating wildfires, DOE deployed emergency responders to support the Federal response to the wildfires and continues to work closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Hawaiʻi State Energy Office, and the Hawaiʻi Office of Emergency Management to support Federal long-term recovery efforts.
- The U.S. Coast Guard assessed and removed pollution, hazardous materials, and dozens of damaged and sunken vessels, and associated debris, from in and around Lahaina Harbor.
- The Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) has been deployed to assist the Maui recovery since late-August 2023 and has been meeting with State, county, and local stakeholders to identify and develop potential economic recovery and resilience projects for future funding. EDA also participates in the State-supported Maui Economic Recovery Commission, launched in January, to work with State and local partners to provide guidance and recommendations for projects that will support local recovery and to develop economic opportunities to maximize Federal funding and community support.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) deployed responders from ASPR, including experts from their Disaster Mortuary Operations Response and Victim Identification Center teams to assist Maui County with processing and identification of remains as well as Disaster Behavioral Health specialists to help survivors cope with the traumatizing fires. ASPR also deployed a portable morgue unit to assist the Maui coroner and additional personnel to bolster mental health staff and resources available at Lahaina Comprehensive Health Center. In addition, ASPR activated the Emergency Prescription Assistance Program, a Federal program that assists people in a Federally-identified disaster area who do not have health insurance get the prescription drugs, vaccinations, medical supplies, and equipment that they need. Secretary Becerra also issued a Public Health Emergency shortly after the President’s disaster declaration, giving CMS health care providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries on the ground. The Disaster Distress Helpline – 1-800-985-5990 – is available to provide immediate counseling to anyone affected by the wildfires.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide a total of $15.9 million in emergency funding through the Federal Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program to help mitigate widescale environmental damage. As local sponsors, the Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) of West Maui and Central Maui will manage the emergency response projects approved under the EWP agreement to stabilize the landscape and help protect communities and ecosystems located downslope of the burn zones in Upcountry Maui. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service deployed a Burned Area Emergency Response team in August to assess the impacts of the fire to watersheds, including the potential for runoff and erosion, and support state and local staff in assessing post-fire watershed conditions and post-fire slope stability issues. The Forest Service is also providing Hawaiʻi with $500,000 to support the management of invasive grasses on Maui using biological control and herbicide treatments.
Additionally, USDA’s Farm Service Agency Hawaii & Pacific Basin continues to offer financial and technical assistance through multiple disaster programs to support farmers and ranchers with recovery and restoration efforts. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has taken several actions, including an extension through February 29, 2024 of a waiver for Maui County residents to purchase hot foods with SNAP benefits, approval of a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) through September 2023, and a mass replacement of SNAP benefits in August 2023 for these residents who had lost food due to power outages.
- The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has created a disaster and emergencies guide to handling finances, including resources to help impacted residents recover, such as tackling housing issues, protecting your finances, dealing with property damage, managing your bills, and asking for help from financial companies like banks, credit cards and other lenders. If residents are having trouble with a financial company, they can submit a complaint online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372).
- The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) made available $3 million, the full amount of “quick release” Emergency Relief (ER) funds requested by the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation, to offset costs associated with traffic management services in the wake of the wildfires. Additionally, in the wake of the wildfires, DOT had issued three temporary flight restrictions to help facilitate search and rescue missions and worked with major U.S. airlines that serve Kahului Airport to promote flexible travel policies.
- The Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF), a partnership between FEMA and Smithsonian Institution, is working through the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency to ensure that museums and cultural heritage sites are incorporated into FEMA preliminary damage assessments to anticipate needs associated with long-term recovery planning.