Joining together to support disaster-relief efforts
By Yuki Lei K. Sugimura
My heart goes out to all those who have been impacted by the wildfires in Lāhainā, Upcountry and South Maui. Our community has suffered unthinkable loss, and yet, we have come together like never before.
Kōkua continues to be made available for displaced residents and others impacted by the Maui fires, thanks to local, nation- and world-wide volunteers, donors and nongovernmental organizations.
Maui County residents have proven themselves to be heroes by selflessly assisting others in big and small ways every day since Aug. 8.
Agencies at all levels of government can also help.
For instance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency may help to provide housing assistance and funding for home repairs and emergency needs. And the U.S. Small Business Administration offers low-interest loans to repair or replace property.
For homeowners, disaster loans up to $500,000 are available for repair or replacement of destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $100,000 to repair or replace personal property, including cars.
For more information on FEMA or SBA assistance, visit disasterassistance.gov or call (800)621-3362.
Free legal advice is also available from several sources.
The Hawaiʻi State Bar Association’s Legal Line is a free service provided by the Young Lawyers Division. Call (808)537-1868 on Wednesdays from 6-7 p.m.
The Second Circuit Court’s Self-Help Center offers legal information from pro bono attorneys. Call (808)707-7153 on Mondays or Thursdays from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
For landlord-tenant issues, Maui Mediation Services is available at no cost. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (808)244-5744.
Cash donations are still needed. But it’s important to make sure the recipients are legitimate.
Here are a few trusted organizations to make donations to help Maui fire victims:
Maui Strong Fund
Kākoʻo Maui Fund
Maui Food Bank
Maui United Way
Maui Economic Opportunity
Send checks to MEO, 99 Mahalani St., Wailuku 96793, made out to Maui Economic Opportunity. In the notes section, include: “MEO-Maui Fires Relief Fund.”
American Red Cross of Hawaii
The Red Cross can also register you as a volunteer.
Please visit the county administration’s website at mauicounty.gov for the latest disaster updates. You may also visit mauinuistrong.info for updated information on resources and assistance.
The #MauiStrong hashtag on social media can also be a source of information. But please be wary of disinformation and unfounded conspiracy theories.
Spreading inaccurate information hinders relief efforts and creates dissension when our sense of unity is most needed. FEMA has created a website to help dispel some of the most harmful falsehoods: fema.gov/disaster/4724/rumor-response.
Expressions of anger, grief and confusion are understandable. But I ask that we all strive to remain vigilant by acting on facts and trying to help, not obstruct, relief efforts.
In time, Lāhainā will be rebuilt in the vision of Lāhainā residents and in recognition of its cultural and historic status as the former capital of Hawaiʻi. The Maui County Council will be tasked with making an array of policy decisions in this effort, but only after Lāhainā and its residents have time to mourn and heal.
The Maui County Council will also focus on the recovery effort Upcountry, as many of our residents have lost homes and face an uncertain water situation.
Issues such as land-use planning, disaster preparation, economic development and environmental protection will be faced by the council over many years as the recovery plan takes shape. At every step of the way, the council will need input from residents.
We will engage in the broadest possible community outreach. That will happen not just through formal public meetings, but also through informal community discussions, surveys and other forms of communication that will make it easy for residents to share their concerns and hopes for Maui’s future.
Everyone is doing what they can to help one another, and for that I am eternally grateful.
I am continually amazed by everyone in our community coming together to help one another. “Maui Strong” isn’t just a rallying cry, it’s a reality.
*Yuki Lei K. Sugimura is the chair of the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee. She holds the County Council seat for the Upcountry residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative and community matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.