Government shutdown holding up recovery funds for lava-ravaged Big Island communities

Updated: Jan. 17, 2019 at 11:21 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As part of its recovery from the Kilauea eruption, Hawaii County is seeking more than half a billion dollars in federal disaster relief and economic aid.

But state Civil Defense officials say some of the money is now being held up by the partial government shutdown.

“The people who answer our questions aren’t working anymore. The people processing the grants that are needed are not working anymore," said Thomas Travis, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

“As time goes on, the shutdown will have an increasing negative effect on the people of Hawaii and we’re starting to feel some of those things now.”

Big Island Civil Defense chief Talmadge Magno said one the county’s key FEMA grant applications is being held up.

The grant will allow emergency officials to re-interview 700 residents who were initially displaced by the lava. He said millions of dollars in federal housing aid could be at risk if the survey isn’t done.

“The process forms were on somebody’s desk in Washington ready to be process and then the shutdown occurred,” he said. “So that case management review, has pretty much stopped.”

The holdup comes as the state Legislature is looking to increase emergency funding to the Big Island and Kauai this session.

“For the neighbor islanders, we assure you we’re behind you whether it’s from floods or whether it was from lava from the Big Island,” said Republican state Rep. Gene Ward,

Added Senate President Ron Kouchi: “While the lava has taken a time out, the devastation on the Big Island is left there for the residents to deal with. There is so much more work to be done," he said.

Along with the $500 million in federal emergency funds, the Big Island is also seeking $150 million in state disaster aid. If the Feds provide less funding, the state may be asked to come up with more money.

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