Financial assistance for island disaster victims

Ken Higginbotham
Ken Higginbotham

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

WAIANAE (KHNL) - Many homeowners never plan for an emergency. And when disaster strikes, some are left wondering who can help them when they need it most.

It can happen in a matter of minutes. A downpour can turn into a damaging flood. Leaving some to clean up for weeks even months.

Like Virginia Burgess, who along with her husband, has been trying to get the mud out of their Waianae home since December.

A costly clean up after the end of the year storms.

"My husband was thinking it would take a $100,000 dollars and that would come from our pockets," said Burgess.

In the meantime, they are sleeping in an RV parked outside their home.

They have a lot to do and little financial support.

"We didn't have any flood insurance, we only had house and fire insurance but nothing else."

When a disaster strikes, many homeowners turn to their insurance company. But if they don't have enough coverage, they look to the county for assistance first.

In small scale disasters, up to $3,000,000 in damage, the county can offer some assistance.

"There's a low cost loan, a waiving of building fees and property tax benefits for victims," said Melvin Kaku, with the City and County of Honolulu's Department of Emergency Management.

When the damage from the disaster is more, the State and federal government can step in to help residents.

"They may be able to qualify for a grant, or a US small business administration loan," said Ken Higginbotham, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

This assistance can be critical to getting residents back in their homes. But don't expect local or federal monies to replace everything lost during a disaster.

"We're not here to make people whole again. What happens, we're here to get people back on the road to recovery," said Higginbotham.

For victims of the December floods, they have until Friday, March 6th to register for federal assistance.

Already over 1,100 people have asked for help from that disaster.