HUD Announces Additional Funding to Assist Displaced Hawaii Wildfire Victims

The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has awarded $1.3 million to the state of Hawaii to support people experiencing homelessness–those living in an emergency shelter, transitional housing, or a place not meant for human habitation–and people at risk of homelessness through HUD’s Rapid Unsheltered Survivor Housing (RUSH) program. The funding was awarded to assist communities in Maui in the wake of recent wildfires.

Early estimates from CoreLogic found that 3,088 residential homes with $1.3 billion in total reconstruction cost value within preliminary wildfire perimeters were damaged.

While FEMA, the Red Cross and local community members have stepped up to assist survivors, the severity of the damage and displacement experienced in the Lāhainā and Upcountry Maui regions has exceeded local sheltering capacity, and more assistance has been deemed necessary.

According to CBS News, the wildfires in Maui have burned thousands of acres since the blaze began in early August. The Lahaina fire burned an estimated 2,170 acres, or approximately 3.4 square miles.

The wildfires began on August 8, and since then, the Olinda fire in central Maui has burned an estimated 1,081 acres and the nearby Kula fire burned an estimated 202 acres. CBS reports both of these blazes are about 85% contained. The Pulehu-Kihei fire was 100% contained as of August 12, and as of August 15, officials estimated 3,200 acres had burned. Together, those estimates represent more than 10 square miles of Maui’s total area of 735 square miles that have been destroyed in the wildfires.

HUD’s RUSH funding is responding to the surge in shelter needs to assist the community in addressing homelessness that could be further exacerbated by the disaster.

Already declared a major disaster area by President Joseph R. Biden Federal aid has been sent to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the wildfires.

HUD’s latest actions come after last week’s announcement of a package of regulatory and administrative waivers to allow the use of HUD funding to help communities in Maui and the Island of Hawaii to help accelerate recovery through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME), Housing Trust Fund (HTF), Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG), and Continuum of Care (CoC) programs.

“Before the wildfires, Hawai’i already had a housing crisis–one that disproportionally impacts Native Hawaiians. HUD is closely monitoring the impact of this disaster on local housing needs, and this funding will fill the gap to ensure the state of Hawaii has what it needs to support people experiencing homelessness,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “HUD is invested in supporting Maui’s recovery, and will continue to work with local officials to support the path forward.”

The eligible activities for HUD’s funding include:

  • For people currently experiencing homelessness: Emergency shelter; rapid re-housing, which provides up to 24 months of rental assistance, financial assistance for move in costs, and supportive services; and
  • For people who are at-risk of experiencing homelessness: Homelessness prevention, which provides up to 24 months of rental assistance, utility assistance, and supportive services for people at risk of homelessness; and outreach assistance, including assistance to meet urgent needs.

RUSH funding is available to help communities provide outreach, emergency shelter, rapid re-housing, and other assistance to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness who are in a disaster-affected area but cannot access all services provided by FEMA programs. HUD is providing this allocations due to FEMA activation of Transitional Sheltering Assistance, which is done in disasters where there is a high level of displacement.

RUSH will fill gaps in federal disaster assistance for people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. People experiencing pre-disaster homelessness have very limited eligibility for FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance.

Earlier this year, HUD announced an overhaul of the agency’s disaster recovery efforts to better serve communities who face the direct impacts of weather-related disasters. HUD established the Office of Disaster Management (ODM) in the Office of the Deputy Secretary, the Office of Disaster Recovery (ODR) within the Office of Community Planning and Development, the addition of dozens of new HUD staff members to help expedite recovery processes, and the allocation of more than $3.3 billion in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds.

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