The Office of Hawaiian Affairs on June 7 announced a relief package of $500,000 in aid for Native Hawaiians impacted by the natural disasters on Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i Island.
“Our deepest aloha goes out to the people whose lives have been turned upside down by these natural disasters,” said OHA Chair Colette Machado. “What is being announced today is just the first phase of OHA’s assistance to our beneficiaries on Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i Island. We will continue to work with these communities to understand their ongoing needs, and we also will be developing initiatives that provide longer term assistance.”
Disaster Relief Aid
At a June 7 meeting, the OHA Board approved $500,000 in disaster relief aid that will include funds for one-time, financial assistance to qualified Native Hawaiian households on both islands and qualified kalo farmers on Kaua‘i, and funds to address other health-related issues caused by the eruptions on Hawai‘i Island.
The elements of the disaster relief package were based on specific requests from the Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i communities. Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau Trustee Dan Ahuna led a team of OHA staff on a site visit in May to assess damages sustained by the Native Hawaiian communities in Wainiha and Hā‘ena. In addition, Hawai‘i Trustee Robert K. Lindsey Jr. and island staff have been in constant dialogue with community leaders to gauge the needs of those affected by the lava.
“We mahalo the many in our community, from the individuals to the grassroots organizations, who came forward immediately to provide kōkua to those in need,” Ahuna said. “Our community has thrived through crisis before because we always come together. We understand that our role here at OHA is to follow the lead of the community and provide assistance as appropriate.”
Trustee Lindsey also recognized the community-driven relief efforts on Hawai‘i Island.
“I have so much aloha for the many who just showed up, rolled up their sleeves and helped,” said Lindsey. “In these times of uncertainty, it’s comforting to know that your neighbors are always here for you.”
New Disaster Relief Loan Program
In addition, OHA’s Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund (NHRLF) Board of Directors approved a new disaster relief loan. Native Hawaiians experiencing a loss as a result of the disasters are now eligible for loans of up to $20,000 at four percent interest with up to six months of deferred payments. Loans may be used for home improvement, vehicle repair or replacement, or business stabilization.
The NHRLF was established in 1985 and is funded and overseen by the federal Administration of Native Americans. OHA administers NHRLF and the fund currently has $15 million available to lend.
In addition, OHA administers a separate consumer micro loan program that provides low-cost loans to Native Hawaiians experiencing temporary financial hardship due to unforeseen events. Loans of up to $7,500 with a five percent interest rate can be used for unexpected home or auto repair and emergency health situations.
Accessing OHA’s Relief Aid
The emergency proclamations Gov. David Ige signed for Kaua‘i and Hawai‘i Island will allow OHA to expedite contracting with vendors to provide these relief services. OHA is in the process of securing vendor contracts for Kaua‘i. Meanwhile, intake forms for flood relief assistance are currently available at www.oha.org/kauai and can be submitted at OHA’s Kaua‘i office located at 4405 Kukui Grove St., Suite 103 in Līhu‘e.
OHA is in the process of securing vendor contracts for Hawai‘i Island. Intake forms for lava relief assistance will be made available at www.oha.org/puna and may be submitted at OHA’s Hilo office located at Wailoa Plaza, Suite 20-CDE, 399 Hualani Street. The completed forms will be forwarded to vendors once they are selected.
Impacted beneficiaries may visit www.oha.org/kauai and www.oha.org/puna for information on the agency’s disaster relief efforts, including intake forms for relief assistance, upcoming resource events and other updates.
See videos from Hā‘ena, Wainiha and Puna on OHA’s YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/OHAHawaii.