State Representatives and Senators to visit Puna lava flow areas


State lawmakers are looking at the possibility of holding a special session to help victims of Kilauea Volcano’s latest eruption.

After seeing the destruction, the shelters, and meeting with emergency responders, lawmakers say they want to find more housing.

Before going into a special session, they need to figure out their options.

Lawmakers got a good grasp of the damage and the toll the eruptions have taken on Pahoa residents.

Now, they are looking to see what they can do to help.

“We’ve been in discussion. The Speaker and I spoke about it yesterday, and as a group, we’ve talked about it, but clearly we would need to ID specifically what it is that we would be coming back in for and have an agreement that’s what we want,” said Senate President Ron Kouchi.

If things get worse, more residents will be evacuated, so housing is a priority. Lawmakers visited Hale Aloha O Puna public housing in Keaau to see if some of the evacuees could be moved in.

There are 13 open units here, but only five are livable. Money would be needed to fix them up and fast. 

“I think depending on the type of work that’s going to be needed, we need to figure out what public housing can do immediately,” said Rep. Sylvia Luke, Finance Committee chairwoman.

But it’s not that simple. The housing is geared for the elderly and disabled. So now the plan is to at least use the showers, because the evacuation shelter at Keaau doesn’t have any.

“So that they could have at least their daily routine. It’s already difficult as it is to not being able to shower,” said Rep. Joy San Buenaventura of Puna.

Lawmakers say they also might look at solutions that helped with the homeless problem, such as bringing in tiny homes and portable shelters.

At this point, getting help from the federal government is not an option. A minimum of 170 homes have to be damaged before FEMA can provide funding.

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