FEMA specialists to visit Big Isle to hear appeals on return of Kilauea funds | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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FEMA specialists to visit Big Isle to hear appeals on return of Kilauea funds

  • STAR-ADVERTISER FILE

    A view of lava from fissure 8 in Leilani Estates, seen July 2018, in Puna on the Big Island. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency announced today that federal assistance specialists will be deployed to Hawaii island in early August to meet with Kilauea eruption disaster aid recipients who have been told to return their disaster relief funds.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency announced Tuesday that federal assistance specialists will be deployed to Hawaii island in early August to meet with Kilauea eruption disaster aid recipients who have been told to return their disaster relief funds.

The Federal Emergency Management and HI-EMA are sending the specialists to Hawaii from Aug. 5 to 9, where they will be available from noon to 8 p.m. at Keaau Armory, to interview applicants appealing the requests for recoupment. They will also be available to explain eligibility decisions, answer questions and collect documentation that may assist in clearing survivor’s debts and resolve some issues like proof of occupancy.

In June, FEMA sent letters to dozens of Kilauea eruption victims, informing them that they were ineligible, and asking that they return federal disaster relief payments.

Interviews are required for individuals who want to appeal the requests for recoupment and must be made within the specific time frame outlined in a letter, according to FEMA. State representatives will attend the interviews, with permission from the applicants.

FEMA said after every disaster, it is required to review disaster assistance payments to ensure taxpayer dollars were appropriately spent. A review of the Kilauea eruption disaster found that a small percentage of applicants were not eligible for some or all of the money received, and federal law requires the agency to seek the return of this aid.

Interviews with applicants will be held at the Keaau Armory, 16-512 Volcano Highway. Appointments can be made at 961-8366.

Individuals who are not under consideration for recoupment, but who have questions, may also request an appointment and will be seen if time permits.

FEMA said potential reasons for ineligibility can include:

>> Duplication of benefits: This occurs when FEMA provides funds that were previously received or available from another source, such as insurance or money from another federal agency. Duplication of benefits may also occur when multiple applicants in a household receive an award for the same item or type of assistance.

>> Assistance provided in error: This occurs when FEMA determines assistance was provided to an applicant that was not eligible for assistance.

>> Misuse of funds: This occurs when FEMA determines the applicant spent the funds inappropriately, which includes, for example, using assistance to pay off credit card debt.

>> Fraud: This occurs when FEMA determines the applicant obtained the assistance through false means by, for example, using a false address, submitting false or altered documents or misrepresenting insurance coverage.

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