(BIVN) – An agreement that would provide a $83.84 million federal housing recovery grant to Hawaiʻi County, following the destructive eruption of Kilauea on the lower East Rift Zone in 2018, was authorized by the Hawaiʻi County Council on Wednesday.
The County issued this media release on the vote:
The Hawai‘i County Council passed two measures Wednesday, authorizing the County to receive $83.84 million in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds.
HUD allocated the grant in January 2020 to address unmet housing recovery needs from the 2018 Kīlauea eruption. The unanimous votes on a resolution and accompanying bill allow the County to enter into a grant agreement with HUD and appropriate the funds. On Tuesday, the County Housing Agency also voted in favor of authorizing the County to enter into the grant agreement.
The grant will fund a Voluntary Housing Buyout Program and Housing Relocation Services Program as identified in the County’s CDBG-DR Action Plan that HUD approved in October 2020 following a public comment period.
“These programs will help Puna residents displaced by the eruption secure stable housing and recover financially,” said Mayor Mitch Roth. “In addition to these programs, the County will continue to apply recovery dollars to support initiatives that help the community recover and become more resilient.”
The eruption destroyed 612 homes, including 294 primary residences. The Buyout Program will prioritize properties that served as primary residences and applicants who are low- to moderate-income. The application process is anticipated to begin around April 30.
“We appreciate the Council and Housing Agency helping us clear this step and being an important partner in this recovery effort,” said Douglas Le, the County’s Kīlauea disaster recovery officer. “By granting these authorizations, the County is ready to complete the grant agreement and begin funding housing assistance programs to help with Puna’s recovery.”
In January 2021, HUD allocated an additional $23.72 million CDBG-DR grant to the County that also prioritizes housing recovery needs. Programs that will be supported by those funds will be outlined in an amendment to the CDBG-DR Action Plan that will be submitted to HUD in July. That will follow another public comment period. To amend the Action Plan, the County must first enter into this grant agreement.
“Many Puna residents are still struggling to resolve their housing situation upended by the 2018 eruption,” said County Councilmember Ashley Kierkiewicz, who represents District 4 in Puna. “Roll out of these programs will help those who need assistance and provide the County with the information it needs to work with the community to identify how best to position the additional CDBG-DR allocation in a way that supports high impact, long-lasting revitalization.”