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News / Nation & World

FEMA has paid out more than $5.6 million to Maui survivors, a figure expected to grow significantly

By KEN SWEET and MAE ANDERSON, The Associated Press
Published: August 18, 2023, 1:13pm

NEW YORK (AP) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday it has approved more than $5.6 million in assistance to nearly 2,000 households in Maui so far as the federal government tries to help survivors of the devastating wildfires.

The White House and FEMA approved a one-time payment of $700 per household for needs like clothing, food, or transportation. The agency will also pay to put survivors up in hotels and motels and says it has paid out $1.6 million in rental assistance as of Friday.

The amounts are expected to grow significantly. Estimates are that thousands of buildings were damaged or destroyed in the fire, which consumed much of historic community of Lahaina. In the wake of the Northern California wildfire in 2018, which decimated the city of Paradise, FEMA paid out $238 million in assistance.

FEMA said Wednesday that it will open a disaster recovery center in Maui in order to better and more quickly facilitate the distribution of aid.

Survivors need to register with FEMA to be eligible for the payout and other assistance. Roughly 4,400 Hawaii fire survivors have applied for so-called critical need assistance as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Jeremy M. Edwards, press secretary for FEMA.

Longer-term aid that could amount to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars will likely come with documentation requirements. Besides the hotel and motel programs and rental assistance, FEMA is offering Hawaii fire survivors home repair and personal property reimbursements and other needs that may not be covered by insurance, Edwards said.

“FEMA is committed to ensuring all disaster survivors receive every dollar of disaster assistance for which they are legally eligible,” he said.

Karen Clark & Company, a prominent disaster and risk modeling company, estimates that more than 2,200 buildings were damaged or destroyed by fire with a total of more than 3,000 buildings damaged by fire or smoke or both. The risk firm calculates that the fire in Lahaina caused about $3.2 billion in insured property losses.

The Small Business Administration, an independent agency of the U.S. government that provides support to entrepreneurs and small businesses, is urging businesses and non-profits affected by the wildfires in Maui to apply for low-interest federal disaster loans.

Businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations in that region can borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets.

The loans can also be used to make improvements to prevent future disaster damage.

“We’re committed to providing federal disaster loans swiftly and efficiently, with a customer-centric approach to help businesses and communities recover and rebuild,” said SBA administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman.

In addition, disaster loans up to $500,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. And homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $100,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property, including personal vehicles.

Interest rates can be as low as 4% for businesses, 2.375% for private nonprofit organizations and 2.5% for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years.

To apply for the aid or small-business loans, businesses and individuals can contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency at https://www.disasterassistance.gov/

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