PAHOA, HAWAII >> Homeowners, renters, business owners and nonprofits that suffered losses in Hawaii island’s volcanic eruption that began May 3 can now start applying for federal monetary aid.
President Donald Trump approved Thursday a request from Gov. David Ige for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide grants and loans to citizens and private organizations for eruption-related economic losses.
State and county officials said FEMA’s assistance can help with temporary housing expenses, unemployment, essential home repairs, legal matters and personal property or disaster- related needs not covered by insurance. Losses for second homes do not qualify.
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Additionally, U.S. Small Business Administration low-interest loans are available for business operators, business landlords and nonprofits.
A disaster relief center jointly run by FEMA and the state is scheduled to open at 8 a.m. today at Keaau High School for disaster victims to register and provide information about themselves and their losses.
Trump’s approval Thursday was in response to Ige’s request Wednesday.
Hawaii representatives in Congress were thankful for the quick action.
“This is an extraordinary ongoing disaster, and the federal response has been robust and seamlessly integrated into state, county, and community efforts,” U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said in a statement. “This is a challenging time for Hawaii island, and this is welcome news.”
Trump’s action amended a May 11 major-disaster declaration through which he released federal funds primarily for government response including costs for emergency personnel, military support and scientists’ work.
Thursday’s amendment provides individual assistance.
FEMA grants don’t have to be repaid. Such assistance also is nontaxable and won’t affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid or other federal benefits.
Hawaii County officials asked that members of different communities visit the relief center on different days to avoid creating long lines and waits, starting today with Leilani Estates, Lanipuna Gardens, Alaili Road and Old Kalapana Highway.
On Saturday the county asks that applicants be from areas of Highway 132, Noni Farms Road, Halekamahina Road, Old Kapoho Road, Puna Kapoho Road, Railroad Avenue and Pohoiki Road.
The request for Sunday is applicants from Vacationland, Kapoho, Green Farm Lots and Kapoho Beach Lots, followed by Volcano on Monday.
The center will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Applicants should bring information including their Social Security number, insurance coverage and bank account routing numbers.
Agency officials will review each case based on information provided before making assistance decisions.
Even those with insurance should register in case insurance proceeds do not fully cover losses.
The eruption is now in its 47th day. Though county officials previously estimated that the number of homes destroyed was around 600 or possibly 700, the official confirmed count Thursday stood at 467.
Fountaining lava from fissure 8 in Leilani Estates reached heights of 200 feet Thursday, which is about as high as several prior days. However, the fountaining now appears smaller in some views because a cone of cinder and spatter around much of the skyward lava has grown to about 160 feet at its highest point, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Two other fissures among 24 that at one time have been active also oozed lava Thursday. Those fissures were 16 and 18 above the Lanipuna Gardens area.
Lava from fissure 8 continued flowing through a well-established channel into the ocean past what used to be Kapoho Bay near the eastern tip of the island. Most of the new lava is being deposited on the ocean floor.
Early Thursday morning there was an explosion of rock and ash at Kilauea’s summit. The 3:19 a.m. explosion shook the ground with the equivalent force of a magnitude-5.3 earthquake, USGS reported. The resulting ash plume rose to 6,000 feet.
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