FEMA and HI-EMA send specialists to help Kilauea survivors verify eligibility

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HONOLULU — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), with support from the County of Hawaii, will deploy assistance specialists to Hawaii Island, August 5-9, to meet with recipients of disaster aid who received letters indicating they owe a federal debt following the 2018 Kilauea eruption.

The specialists will explain eligibility decisions, answer questions, and collect documentation that may assist in clearing survivor’s debts. State representatives will also attend the interviews with permission of the applicants.

This combined effort between the County, State and Federal agencies will address issues regarding standards to prove occupancy as well as other concerns that may have resulted in ineligibility for assistance.

Letters have been sent to those under consideration for recoupment informing that they need to make an appointment to appeal FEMA’s decision within the time stated on their recoupment letter. Appointments for interviews are required.

Those not under consideration for recoupment but who have questions may ask for an appointment and will be seen, time permitting.

Interviews with applicants will be held from the hours of 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to accommodate those with varied daytime schedules. The location for the interviews will be at the Kea‘au Armory (behind the soccer fields at the Shipman County Park) at

16-512 Volcano Highway, Keaau, Hawaii 96749. Appointments can be made at (808) 961-8366.

Earlier this summer, FEMA sent recoupment letters to individuals who may have been ineligible for assistance. Potential reasons for ineligibility can include:

  • Duplication of benefits: This occurs when FEMA provides funds that were previously received or available from another source (e.g., insurance or money from another federal agency). A 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 (e.g., using assistance to pay off credit card debt).
  • Fraud: This occurs when FEMA determines the applicant obtained the assistance through false means (e.g., false address, submitting false or altered documents, misrepresenting insurance coverage).

After every disaster, FEMA is required to review disaster assistance payments to ensure taxpayer dollars were appropriately spent. A review of the Kilauea eruption disaster discovered that a small percentage of applicants were not eligible for some or all of the money received. In these cases, federal law requires FEMA seek the return of this aid.

For the original story on FEMA on the Big Island, click here.

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