(BIVN) – There are a number of upcoming initiatives and public meetings scheduled in regards to the 2018 Kīlauea volcano eruption recovery effort.
FEMA: For Residents Who Got Letters Saying They Owe Money
State and federal assistance specialists will deploy to Hawai‘i Island from August 5 to 9, “to meet with recipients of disaster aid who received letters indicating they owe a federal debt following the 2018 Kīlauea eruption.”
“The specialists will explain eligibility decisions, answer questions, and collect documentation that may assist in clearing survivor’s debts,” a Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency media release stated. “State representatives will also attend the interviews with permission of the applicants.”
The state says:
This combined effort between the County, State and Federal agencies will address issues regarding standards to prove occupancy as well as other concerns that may have resulted in ineligibility for assistance.
Letters have been sent to those under consideration for recoupment informing that they need to make an appointment to appeal FEMA’s decision within the time stated on their recoupment letter. Appointments for interviews are required.
Those not under consideration for recoupment but who have questions may ask for an appointment and will be seen, time permitting.
Interviews with applicants will be held from the hours of 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to accommodate those with varied daytime schedules. The location for the interviews will be at the Kea‘au Armory (behind the soccer fields at the Shipman County Park) at
16-512 Volcano Highway, Kea‘au, Hawai‘i 96749.
Appointments can be made at 808-961-8366.
Earlier this summer, FEMA sent recoupment letters to individuals who may have been ineligible for assistance. Potential reasons for ineligibility can include:
Duplication of benefits: This occurs when FEMA provides funds that were previously received or available from another source (e.g., insurance or money from another federal agency). A duplication of benefits may also occur when multiple applicants in a household receive an award for the same item or type of assistance.
Assistance provided in error: This occurs when FEMA determines assistance was provided to an applicant that was not eligible for assistance.
Misuse of funds: This occurs when FEMA determines the applicant spent the funds inappropriately (e.g., using assistance to pay off credit card debt).
Fraud: This occurs when FEMA determines the applicant obtained the assistance through false means (e.g., false address, submitting false or altered documents, misrepresenting insurance coverage).
After every disaster, FEMA is required to review disaster assistance payments to ensure taxpayer dollars were appropriately spent. A review of the Kīlauea eruption disaster discovered that a small percentage of applicants were not eligible for some or all of the money received. In these cases, federal law requires FEMA seek the return of this aid.
County Surveys To Collect Community Input
The County of Hawaiʻi has launched three surveys to collect community input, “which will shape both near-and long-term recovery efforts on Hawaiʻi Island, with a particular focus on the Puna District.”
The surveys are available on the Kīlauea Recovery website.
The County says:
The surveys focus on different areas of recovery: households, businesses and community. They are part of the second phase of recovery under the Talk Action, Take Action initiative.
“We hope anyone affected by the Kīlauea eruption will fill out these surveys,” said Diane Ley, Director of Research & Development for the County. “By better understanding the specific needs of the community, individuals and businesses at this time, the recovery framework and resulting initiatives will better address the improved well-being of all still recovering.”
The Household Impact and Opportunity Assessment will help clarify what unmet needs families are experiencing. It will guide family outreach and long-term community planning.
The Community Impact and Opportunity Assessment will provide direction for decisions about long-term recovery, including hazard mitigation, land use, natural & cultural resource management, infrastructure investments, housing, and economic development. The Puna CDP (Community Development Plan) Action Committee will use the survey to make informed recommendations on priority objectives at its August 6, 2019 meeting.
The Business Impact and Opportunity Assessment follows up on last year’s business survey sent in the early days of the eruption. The results will identify ongoing economic impacts as well as challenges and opportunities for business recovery.
Unless one chooses to be contacted individually, the information from the surveys will be anonymous and aggregated to determine current priorities of the public regarding recovery.
The surveys cover a range of topics, from questions about development in areas with adequate access, to asking individuals and families if they are still in need of replacement housing.
“We invite everyone invested in Hawaiʻi Island to respond. The greater the participation, the more clarity the County and its community partners will have moving forward on recovery,” Ley said.
The deadline for the three surveys is August 4, 2019.
Eruption Speak Out Event
The County of Hawaiʻi says it will hold a Community SpeakOut Event on July 27, as it seeks input on the ongoing Kīlauea Eruption Recovery process.
From the County of Hawaiʻi:
Hawaiʻi County residents are invited to drop in anytime for a Community SpeakOut on Saturday, July 27, 2019 at the Keaʻau High School cafeteria, between 8:30 am and 4 pm. The event, part of the county’s Talk Action, Take Action initiative, is to share information with and gather input from the community regarding priority Kīlauea recovery objectives for Puna and the rest of the Island.
The day-long event will include the latest, most accurate information on recovery. It will include workshops and other opportunities for learning. The event is free and family-friendly; there will be interactive, educational activities for keiki, as well as food and refreshments.
“We designed the event to provide an opportunity where you and your family can share your voice and shape what your future Puna looks like,” said Bob Agres, Manager for Disaster Recovery Community Engagement & Collaboration. “We hope the exchange of information will provide insight and will lead to many ways for the community to engage in the recovery process.”
The event will address the critical challenges and opportunities with regard to Kīlauea eruption recovery, raise awareness and understanding of the disaster recovery process that includes County, State and Federal efforts, and share information about collaborative community-based recovery actions.
There will be two workshops, with key financial and economic experts.
The ‘Ohana Self-Sufficiency Workshop from 10:30 am -12 pm will cover issues and opportunities relating to: financial capability, housing, education, and employment. Panelists from the workshop include leaders who will speak about available resources and programs to help families
The Economic Recovery Workshop from 1 – 2:30 pm will cover issues and opportunities relating to: economic impact baseline and implications, community-based tourism and regional identity, agriculture and food systems, and energy and transportation. Panelists from the workshop include specialists like Paul Brewbaker, former Chief Economist of the Bank of Hawaiʻi, and Stephen Jordan, CEO of the Institute for Sustainable Development
The SpeakOut event’s results will provide additional information to the Puna Community Development Plan (CDP) Action Committee to make informed recommendations regarding priority recovery objectives. The committee meets on August 6, 2019 to consider various recovery goals relating to village town centers, infrastructure, natural and cultural resource management, and health and wellbeing.
To qualify for federal government disaster recovery funds, this level of public input is required. “One big goal of the SpeakOut is to catalyze collaborative partnerships—a Community-Based Recovery Network—and to increase involvement by residents in the recovery planning and implementation process,” said Recovery Manager, Diane Ley.
The SpeakOut event follows the recently announced County surveys to collect community input that will shape both near- and long-term recovery efforts on Hawaiʻi Island. The surveys will be available at the event and are on the Kīlauea Recovery website.
For more information on the Community SpeakOut, go to the County’s website.
Puna CDP Special Meeting
There will be a special Puna Community Development Plan Action Committee meeting on August 6, 2019 at the Pāhoa Neighborhood Facility from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The County of Hawaiʻi says the special meeting will focus on the eruption recovery process.
“The Action Committee will be asked to review and recommend the prioritization of recovery objectives as they relate to the priority recovery goals confirmed by the Action Committee at the May 21, 2019 PCDP Action Committee meeting,” a CDP message stated.