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State Senate approves $60M aid package for Hawaii County

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    A lava river from Fissure 8 flowed near Leilani Avenue in Leilani Estates.

The state Senate gave final approval Friday to a $60 million aid package for Hawaii County to help the island from the Kilauea lava flow that destroyed more than 700 homes last year and a tropical storm in August that caused serious flooding.

The package includes $20 million that the county can use as a local match for federal disaster assistance and another $40 million in state loans.

The funding, outlined in House Bill 1180, will be sent to the governor for final approval. But the county has already begun looking at how to appropriate the aid based on a proposal that Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim provided to the county council earlier this week, said Hawaii County Councilman Tim Richards during a press conference at the state Capitol Friday.

Richards said top priorities include rebuilding roads and other infrastructure affected by the volcanic eruption in Puna, as well as helping small businesses and revitalizing the tourism industry.

Richards estimated that the island’s economy took a $500 million loss last year, primarily in tourism dollars.

“There is no way that the Legislature can fund everything,” he said. “What we’ve got to do is start getting people back in homes, we’ve got to start getting our infrastructure back in place. At the same time, we’ve got to pay attention to taking care of our economy, so we’ve got to rebuild that.”

The press conference was also attended by the state legislators who represent Hawaii island and state Senate and state House leadership, who stressed that the funding was a top priority for the state Legislature this year.

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