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Schatz expects state to get tsunami-damage aid

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With an estimated $30 million in damage from the March 11 tsunami, the state believes it has met the threshold needed to receive a federal disaster declaration from the president, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz said yesterday.

Included in the overall damage estimate is $8.5 million in losses to public property.

The state’s request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration, making Hawaii eligible for increased federal assistance, has been sent to Washington, D.C., and Schatz said he expects it to be approved.

“We expect favorable consideration from the White House,” Schatz said.

The lieutenant governor recently returned from a weeklong trip to Washington, where he met with officials from the White House and Federal Emergency Management Agency to discuss disaster recovery efforts.

Teams from the Small Business Administration arrived in Kona this week to assist landowners, companies and renters who are facing financial difficulties from the tsunami, he said.

About 40 households and 35 businesses on Hawaii island reported major uninsured losses.

Under a Physical Disaster Declaration for the county made by the SBA, at the governor’s request, affected homeowners and renters, as well as businesses and private nonprofits of any size, might be eligible for low-interest loans to help them recover, Schatz said.

While in Washington last week, Schatz also met with officials from other agencies to discuss other state-related issues, including the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Hono­lulu and federal aid to the state for health care costs for Compact of Free Association migrants.

On APEC, Schatz said the state would work with State Department officials to find funds to cover security costs. Funds to provide security for APEC were considered an earmark, and were killed along with all other earmarks, in the Senate.

Security costs are estimated at $1.3 million for the state Sheriff Division and more than $20 million for Hono­lulu police.

“We feel confident that we will be able to find funding to ensure the safety of the delegates and heads of state,” he said. “We’re going to have to do some work with the State Department and the Secret Serv­ice to make sure that our Police Department and Sheriff’s Department are made whole.”

The state also was working with federal agencies to find funds to cover health care costs borne by states for Compact migrants — residents of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau who seek assistance in the United States and territories, primarily Hawaii and Guam.

“This is a federal obligation that is being paid for primarily by state taxpayers,” Schatz said. “There’s recognition locally and at the federal level that that’s what’s happening, so we’re working through the various avenues to try to solve this problem.”

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