Hawaii Island residents who lost their homes to Kilauea eruption receive buyout checks

“It was all worth the wait."
Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 7:26 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 27, 2022 at 11:03 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Island property owners who lost their homes in the 2018 Kilauea eruption are finally receiving their buyout checks from the county.

Puna resident Kieba Blacklidge is one of them.

“It was all worth the wait,” Blacklidge said. “It was totally worth the wait. I was, I’m still, I can’t even believe it.”

Fissures opened in Blacklidge’s Lanipuna Gardens neighborhood four years ago. She was on a trip in Atlanta, Georgia, at the time to visit her new grandchild.

“I was in disbelief because it was everything I’ve ever worked my entire life for and here I was like 58-years-old and what am I going to do now?” Blacklidge said.

Lava destroyed her home and business — all worth more than $300,000.

“Fisher 22 is there now. Fisher 22 is my backyard. And it was, they’re calling it the perfect cone,” she said.

Blacklidge began to rebuild her life with the help of family, friends, and donations. Then last year came word of Hawaii County’s Voluntary Housing Program.

“I probably was one of the first couple of people to apply,” Blacklidge said.

The program allows home and property owners to receive buyouts based on land values before the disaster, up to $230,000.

“We have just over 650 applications for properties of all types. About 300 of them alone are from primary homes,” said County Recovery Officer Douglas Nam Le.

It’s a complex process.

Phase 1 began a year ago and only 45 applicants have received any money so far. The first closing happened in June and there was a second batch in August.

“There’s an understanding that a program like this does take time,” Le said.

“It is not like a regular private market transaction, where if I were to go buy a home for myself, or sell my house. Just to get to a purchase agreement requires hundreds of hours of work from the applicant, but mainly from our staff team.”

The county expects around 115 applicants will make it to the closing table by the end of the year as they streamline the process.

Blacklidge’s patience paid off with a $127,000 check.

She was able to pay back her family and now plans to put the finishing touches on her new home and a new fitness retreat: Body Temple Bootcamp.

“I’m so blessed,” Blacklidge said.

Phase 3 of the program ends on Oct. 31 and there will be no extensions. Anyone who missed the first two phases can still apply in this last round.

“We want to really help everyone who wants to seek this assistance get to the finish line,” Le said.

Contact the county at kilaueabuyout@hawaiicounty.gov or call (808) 961-8996 before the deadline.

For more information, click here.