Hawaii legislators are rushing to send $100 million to rain-soaked Kauai and make $25 million available statewide for damage caused by last weekend’s deluge.
The Kauai money would be used to reopen roads that landslides closed, rebuild demolished park facilities and help families and businesses reeling from a storm that dropped 27 inches of rain in 24 hours.
Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz, House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke and other leading lawmakers came up with a plan to provide $125 million to address the flood damage through an amended version of Senate Bill 192 that a joint conference committee passed Wednesday.
“We’re making an unusual effort in extraordinary circumstances,” Luke said before the unanimous vote in support.
A few key things must happen before any money actually goes to Kauai or elsewhere.
First, the Legislature has to pass the overall state budget bill. Lawmakers plan to fast-track it and pass it out of the House-Senate conference committee by Friday — at least a week sooner than expected.
The full House and Senate would then have to pass the budget measure, House Bill 1900, which could happen as soon as Tuesday. If all goes as planned, the Legislature would then give final passage to Senate Bill 192.
From there, the budget bill would go to Gov. David Ige for his signature. The administration would dole out the money through the Department of Defense.
Ige said he would welcome the additional resources. He issued an emergency declaration Sunday and has already authorized through executive action funding to start repairing public infrastructure on Kauai.
“We can’t wait for the legislative process to complete,” he said, adding that the extra money would certainly help.
Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. was at the Capitol for the conference committee’s vote and a subsequent press conference. He choked up while thanking the lawmakers for the anticipated financial assistance.
“We’ve been through hurricanes on Kauai but this one is even more devastating,” he said.
Senate President Ron Kouchi, who represents Kauai, said he was more than familiar with the challenges of waiting for the federal government to help.
He took office two months after Hurricane Iwa blasted Kauai in 1982, causing an estimated $312 million in damage, and was Kauai County Council chair when Hurricane Iniki devastated the island in 1992, causing an estimated $1.8 billion in damage, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Natural Disaster Survey Report.
“This will ensure you can act boldly,” Kouchi told the mayor.
Kauai Reps. Nadine Nakamura, who represents the North Shore that was hit hardest, James Tokioka and Dee Morikawa also expressed their gratitude for the expected cash infusion.
“It was very difficult for many of us from Kauai to come here Monday knowing there’s so much damage, so much heartache and so much work to do,” Nakamura said.
Luke said she’s been in discussions with members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation to try to get additional relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but those funds wouldn’t be available immediately.
The counties must provide the state with the estimated damage costs through preliminary assessments before FEMA help can be sought.
Carvalho had a binder full of information about the damage caused by the storm but did not have the estimated costs broken out as of Wednesday.
It was unclear how legislators came up with the $125 million figure, though Luke said that amount may not be enough.
Private donations are also coming in through online fundraisers and non-profit organizations.
On Wednesday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced they would support Kauai disaster relief with a $1 million commitment.
“Kauai has become our family’s retreat and sanctuary,” Chan and Zuckerberg said in a statement. “We are heartbroken by the floods and are committed to helping the community recover and rebuild an even stronger one.”
The donation will support organizations helping the North Shore and Koloa recover from the acute phase of the disaster including Hawaii Community Foundation, Kauai Habitat for Humanity and Kauai Economic Opportunity.
These contributions are in addition to donations Zuckerberg and Chan made to the American Red Cross and Malama Kauai earlier this week.
Civil Beat founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam donated $100,000 to relief efforts through the Hawaii Community Foundation.
Also Wednesday, Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell held a press conference in front of an Aina Hina house along Wailupe Stream wracked by the storm.
The home, one of 163 on Oahu affected by flooding Friday night, was emptied of furniture and its once green lawn caked with mud that flowed up from the stream.
“We didn’t know where to start,” said Shauna Tuohy, whose mother owns the home. “It was just overwhelming.”
Four homes remained inaccessible on Oahu as of Wednesday, according to the American Red Cross, which is assessing damage to private property.
• Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services: Make online donations at hawaii.salvationarmy.org or call 808-988-2136.
• Kauai Independent Food Bank: Cleaning supplies, bottled water, nonperishable food, hygiene products and diapers accepted at the Kauai Independent Food Bank from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For after-hours deliveries, call 808-652-4737.
• Hawaii Life Charitable Fund: Matching first $25,000 donations to the Hawaii Charitable Fund to support Malama Kauai and Red Cross. Visit give.hawaiilife.com/donate/ or email Meghan Thibault, email@example.com.
• Hawaii Community Foundation: Contribute online to the Kauai Relief and Recovery Fund at HawaiiCommunityFoundation.org/KauaiRelief
• Hawaii Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster: Go to hivoad.communityos.org/cms/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Hawaii Food Bank: Annual Food Day Drive on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Windward City Shopping Center will help flood victims. Nonperishable food and bottled water can also be dropped off at Kauai branch. Make online donations clicking this link.
Caldwell signed an emergency proclamation Wednesday, allowing the city to offer property tax relief and waive permitting fees to affected property owners.
To help Waimanalo farms that sustained crop damage, Councilman Ikaika Anderson is proposing legislation to defer property tax payments to landowners.
State and city officials will be at Koko Head District Park on Tuesday and Thursday and at Waimanalo District Park on Monday and Wednesday from noon until 8 p.m. to explain resources available to people affected.
The storm also caused $7.3 million in damage to Oahu storm drains, and the federal government is expected to cover up to 80 percent of the cost of repairs, Caldwell said.
Assessors from the state and representing the Federal Emergency Management Agency are evaluating damage on Oahu as Ige plans to expand the emergency declaration already issued on Kauai.
“We’ve already been in contact with the White House in preparation requesting a presidential disaster declaration,” Ige said. “That will allow us to respond and initiate action for recovery as quickly as possible.”
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