Green: Program modeled after 9/11 fund will distribute up to $1M to wildfire victims, families

Today marks three months since the deadly wildfires tore through Lahaina.
Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 6:15 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 8, 2023 at 5:43 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state, institutions and Maui County have committed $150 million to a compensation fund being established for Lahaina wildfire victims and their families, the governor announced Wednesday in an address marking three months since the disaster.

Under the fund, victims and their families could get up to $1 million.

Gov. Josh Green said the fund, which could grow, is modeled after one created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and is designed to get money into the hands of families more quickly than litigation.

“Our message should be clear: In Hawaii, during difficult times, we come together to help one another,” Green said, during his speech. He added those who have already pledged to participate in the fund include Maui County, the state, Hawaiian Electric and Kamehameha Schools.

The announcement comes as wildfire-related lawsuits continue to mount.

Special Section: Maui Wildfires Disaster

The families of those who died and victims who suffered series injuries would be high priorities, thought authorities said eligibility could broaden to include those who lost homes.

“The way we view this is as an ‘ohana. We are all taking responsibility as a state,” Green said.

The state Attorney General’s Office said if those affected by the fire accept money from the fund, they will waive some of their ability to sue the entities contributing.

Participating in the program could mean getting money faster than a lawsuit, but the governor said he understands some might want to see if they can get more compensation through legal action.

“If it’s not right for an individual, if they still feel it’s better pursue other paths — whether that’s lawsuits or other venues — that’s OK,” he said.

Meanwhile, officials say there are still around 6,800 fire survivors still being sheltered in hotels — with no exact date on when long-term housing will be available.

The Aug. 8 wildfire in Lahaina destroyed the historic town, leaving at least 99 people dead. Rebuilding is expected to take years and will begin with a massive debris removal project.