(BIVN) – A new radio message from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is informing residents of Leilani Estates who live in the so-called “voluntary” evacuation zone and who were denied rental assistance that they can submit another request.
In the message, FEMA media relations specialist Renee Bafalis introduces herself and says:
Residents who live west of Pomaikai Street in Leilani Estates have in some cases been denied rental assistance after FEMA inspectors went to their home and determined it was habitable. This area is a voluntary evacuation zone under the county’s designation and therefore residents were denied rental assistance under FEMA program guidelines.
After more closely examining the access rules, FEMA will not allow inspectors to enter county-designated evacuation zones, voluntary or involuntary, for safety reasons. Residents who live in Leilani Estates west of Pomaikai Street in the county’s voluntary evacuation zone and who were denied rental assistance by FEMA are encouraged to ask the agency to re-inspect their property. This is not an appeal of the earlier determination. This is simply a request for FEMA to re-inspect the property and determine whether conditions have changed.
The re-inspection is not a guarantee of eligibility for assistance, however some residents who were initially denied rental assistance may be determined to be eligible for one month of rental assistance.
Residents of Leilani Estates who live west of Pomaikai Street who were denied rental assistance should go to the joint disaster recovery center at Kea’au High School gymnasium. They are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 to 4.
The situation was exemplified by the story of Leilani Estates residents Geoffrey Last, who received a letter from Hawaii County Civil Defense declaring his home to be uninhabitable due to the volcanic eruption on Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone. But the letter, which noted Last’s home was in a voluntary evacuation zone, did not help Last in his quest to receive help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“I have not lost my home,” Last told the Hawaii County Council during a recent Human Services and Social Services Committee meeting in Hilo. “We’re in a voluntary evacuation area. My wife is 76 years old. I’m 70. She has a heart condition. She can’t live there. It’s impossible for her to live there. It would kill her to live there. But because we’re in a voluntary evacuation zone, FEMA has rejected any assistance to us, because my house is still standing.”