HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii senators are expected to vote Friday on a bill that will provide $60 million in disaster relief funding to help Hawaii Island in the ongoing efforts to recover from last summer’s Leilani Estates eruption.
According to lawmakers, HB1180 — which already passed through the House — is anticipated to have overwhelming, if not unanimous support in the Senate, and could likely head to the governor’s desk by Friday afternoon to be signed into law.
Legislators say of the $60 million total earmarked within the bill, $20 million would be set aside in a state grant and $40 million would be designated for a state loan with an expected payback from the federal government.
Officials say the bill is written to allow for matching funding from the federal government — and in theory, Hawaii Island could quadruple the amount if they apply for the right grants.
State Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, of Puna, says sending the funds would be subject to the Hawaii County Council approval. She says lawmakers have been working on this since last August — the day after the primaries — to ensure that the communities hit hardest by the eruption get the assistance they need to get back on their feet.
Infrastructure repairs are a top priority — specifically, reopening Highway 132.
The Kilauea eruption began on May 3 and eventually claimed 716 homes and covered nearly 14 square miles in lava — but many homes and farm lots are still standing and untouched — though they are inaccessible.
Buenaventura hopes this funding, which she describes as “just a drop in the bucket”, will be instrumental in getting Highway 132 opened as soon as possible.