600 Maui businesses have closed since the wildfires — and hundreds more are on the brink
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - New data shows a continued drop in visitors — and revenue — on Maui as the island’s economy struggles to recover from the catastrophic wildfires.
According to the Hawaii Small Business Development Center on Maui, about 600 businesses have closed since the Aug. 8 wildfires.
Wayne Wong, director of the center, said there are shops across the Valley Isle facing eviction.
“It’s very, very tough and there have been no grants for businesses outside of the burn area,” said Wong. “The governor has talked of one, our mayor has talked of another, there’s been nothing.”
Since the fires, Wong said they received hundreds of phone calls asking for help.
“They are suffering economic injury, but they’re not a burn victim so they don’t qualify for assistance and so, it’s extremely difficult.”
Wong said Lahaina was home to about 1,100 businesses.
Kathleen Stout’s shop of nearly three decades, The Jewelry Stand Maui, was one of them.
She lost everything on Aug. 8.
“I’m sad to know that my business and livelihood and passion of 26 years in downtown Lahaina is gone,” said Stout. “I have me to make the jewelry but as far as my established business and all the years of hard work and love and passion, it’s hard to see the future as to where that’s gonna go.”
Stout has since opened an online shop, but the road to recovery has been tough.
“I don’t see any progress in a forward motion to find new places or even help,” said Stout. “I’ve tried all the correct avenues that I know to, for me to reach out for help and so far, I don’t know anyone.”
James Kunane Tokioka, director of the Department Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said the state sent $12.5 million to Maui County a month after the fires to help businesses.
But no one’s received the money so far. It was turned over to the county council for approval.
And now the application process and requirements are being finalized.
“We’re hoping that whatever the log jam was is fixed with the business loans and I explained before, the loan is going to be a forgivable loan, unless you move from the state of Hawaii,” said Tokioka. “If you move from Maui, because there’s no business there for you and you go to any of the outer islands, it’s forgivable, but if you move to the mainland, it’s not.”
Tokioka said the money will eventually be distributed through three agencies: Maui Economic Development Board, Maui Community Federal Credit Union and Maui Economic Opportunity.
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