FEMA deadline passes but other options still available for Kilauea eruption victims

HILO — While the deadline to apply for a federal program providing individual assistance to Kilauea eruption victims has passed, other programs continue to provide support for those affected by last year’s disaster.

Monday was the final deadline to submit documentation to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in order to apply for the agency’s individual assistance program. That program, which began in June 2018, provided financial aid and other services to individuals and households affected by the Kilauea eruption.

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FEMA already has awarded nearly $12.5 million to more than 1,000 households, with more than $11 million of that going toward housing assistance.

Although the deadline for that program has passed, victims can still avail themselves of a FEMA-funded case management program through the Neighborhood Place of Puna.

“The idea is that if you’re not sure if you need help or not, you should just give us a call anyway,” said Neighborhood Place Executive Director Paul Normann.

The free-to-use program, Normann said, connects victims with other resources in the county and state to address their specific problems. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most frequent issue among applicants to the program is housing assistance, followed by repair assistance.

In cases of securing housing assistance, Neighborhood Place works with partners such as Habitat for Humanity, which can provide “a higher level of support,” Normann said. However, he added, there is still a shortage of family housing available for victims of the eruption.

Other nonprofits working with Neighborhood Place include the Salvation Army, Hawaiian Community Assets, Catholic Charities and Hope Services Hilo.

Since the program began in October, Neighborhood Place has reached out to 717 households previously known to have been affected by the eruption. Normann said several of the households that responded are seeking additional assistance, 30 have completed the program’s intake process, and there are currently five open cases.

“I know it doesn’t sound like much right now, but I think we’ll see that increase through November,” Normann said.

Neighborhood place has hired eight new staff members to handle the caseload out of an office in Hawaiian Paradise Park.

“At this point, if you haven’t received assistance by now, there’s probably some sort of barrier blocking you,” Normann said. “And we might be able to help with that.”

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Prospective applicants for the case management program are recommended to call (808) 965-5550.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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