(BIVN) – The County of Hawaiʻi is spreading the word on two upcoming events concerning the ongoing recovery following the 2018 Kilauea eruption on the Lower East Rift Zone.
There will be a quarterly Revitalize Puna community activation on Monday, April 11. One week later, there will be a Virtual Public Meeting on the plans for a Voluntary Housing Buyout Program.
County officials say the Disaster Recovery Division and County Council District 4 will host the April 11 Revitalize Puna event, in-person, at Sure Foundation Church in Puna. It will be the fourth activation convened since the series launched in June 2021.
The County says all residents are invited to this free event. Doors open at 3:30 p.m., and presentations begin at 4:30 p.m. The activation will conclude at 7:30 p.m. From the County:
The theme of the fourth Revitalize Puna is “Seeing is Believing”. The County will share how resident manaʻo has shaped decision-making and project plans. Presentations include County updates on infrastructure investments such as roads, water, parks, and a report back on Revitalize Pohoiki, a placemaking plan, and roadmap for the restoration and stewardship of Isaac Kepo‘okalani Hale Park. In addition, the State Department of Land and Natural Resources will be on hand to provide a status update on the restoration of the Pohoiki Boat Ramp.
The activation will also feature a Resource Row with information from local nonprofits and community-led resilience projects residents can get involved in, including Paint Pāhoa Town and emergency preparedness. In addition, a keiki craft station, plant giveaways, and local food trucks will be available.
Sure Foundation Church is located off Highway 130, at 16-1592 Pohaku Circle. Revitalize Puna event attendees are encouraged to register online.
On April 18, a Virtual Public Meeting is set to take place as the County of Hawai‘i is accepting public comment on a draft Substantial Amendment to its Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Action Plan. The public comment period runs April 4 through May 3, 2022.
“The Action Plan addresses how the County spends $107,561,000 in CDBG-DR grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to assist with recovery from the 2018 Kīlauea eruption,” a County news release stated. According to officials, some of the primary changes proposed within the draft Substantial Amendment include:
- Establishment of a new maximum grant award of $22,000 specifically for undeveloped properties that would be acquired through the Voluntary Housing Buyout Program, based on pre-disaster value
- Clarification of programmatic policies and procedures for the Voluntary Housing Buyout Program related to program eligibility, exceptions, and duplication of benefits analysis
- Revision of timeframes for Phase 3 to apply for the Voluntary Housing Buyout Program to begin in July 2022 in order to complete this Substantial Amendment process
- Elimination of the Housing Relocation Services Program with background and rationale
- Reallocation of funding from the Housing Relocation Services Program to the Voluntary Housing Buyout Program
“Since the launch of the Voluntary Housing Buyout Program in April 2021, our staff have worked diligently and with care to connect families displaced by the 2018 Kīlauea eruption to this financial assistance,” said Disaster Recovery Officer Douglas Nam Le in the news release. “With the 467 applications received to-date nearly $90 million is committed to serve these households. The changes we are proposing in this draft Substantial Amendment are driven by the County’s objective to serve as many eligible households as possible with these limited grant funds; and a goal we share with HUD to prioritize assistance to low- and moderate-income community members.”
“I want to thank the families who have worked with us for their patience as we move applications along this process,” said CDBG-DR Program Manager Julie Leialoha. “With more than half of the primary homes having received offers for purchase we are excited to begin moving applicants to escrow. The proposed changes in the Substantial Amendment right-size the program to our community’s needs by applying a comparable methodology for establishing the new maximum grant award for undeveloped properties at $22,000 as we did when the maximum grant award was established for properties with structures, based on pre-disaster market value. We welcome community feedback on these important decisions.”
From the County of Hawaiʻi:
A Virtual Public Meeting on this draft Substantial Amendment to the CDBG-DR Action Plan will be held on Monday, April 18, 2022, from 3:00 to 5:00 PM. Registration for the Virtual Public Meeting is required, and members of the public can register for this meeting by visiting (this website). If a member of the public is unable to register for this Virtual Public Meeting online, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (808) 961-8996.
The four-month-long eruption impacted 1,770 parcels and inundated 612 residences, including 294 primary homes. As of April 1, 2022, the Voluntary Housing Buyout Program has received 289 active applications of primary homes and 178 applications for second homes during the first two phases of the program. Additionally, 106 registrations for the program have been received for undeveloped parcels.
The program is not accepting new applications at this time while staff focus on processing offers and escrow for primary home applicants and begin in-take for second home applicants. Applications for all types of property impacted by the 2018 Kīlauea eruption will be accepted when Phase 3 of the program opens in July 2022.
HUD requires CDBG-DR grantees to address unmet housing recovery needs before spending the funds on otherwise eligible uses, such as infrastructure or economic development.
For more information on the Voluntary Housing Buyout Program, including application information, visit this page at the Kilauea Recovery website.