HONOLULU (KHON2) — Making sure that Maui stays top of mind for leaders in Washington is the goal of a Hawaii delegation that is meeting with government officials during the week of Monday, Oct. 23.
The delegation is advocating for more recovery funds to go to Maui County two and a half months after the devastating wildfires.
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Tuesday, Oct. 24 marks 77 days since Lahaina burned down and Maui has vanished from national headlines. The Hawaii Chamber of Commerce said that is part of the reason why this trip to D.C. is so critical.
“To ensure that we meet with key leaders and decision makers in person to show that, ‘Please don’t forget about Maui. Maui is still in its recovery and its going to take years to recover,'” Chamber of Commerce Sherry Menor-McNamara said.
Maui County Council vice chair Yuki Lei Sugimura said federal dollars put displaced residents up in hotels.
“But we need to stabilize their lives,” Sugimura said. “And so the objective is to not move them, you know, around and to give them some stability as they rebuild their families on the properties that are now just ashes.”
The delegation is meeting with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Housing and Urban Development Department, the White House and other government officials to discuss additional resources for Maui’s economic recovery — an ask that totals over $2 billion.
The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) says they will meet with HUD on Wednesday, Oct. 25 to fast-track housing projects.
“But in a way that’s balanced, that’s not going to break our ecosystem is important in helping them to understand that fabric, the sensitivity areas, but also our needs I think is important,” CNHA chief executive officer Kuhio Lewis said.
The Chamber of Commerce wants loan forgiveness from SBA — similar to PPP programs during the pandemic.
“Because many small businesses have took out many loans during the pandemic and are still repaying them. So what we’ve been hearing from the small businesses is to ask for some kind of loan forgiveness,” Menor-McNamara said, “Because as we know, many jobs were lost in the past couple of months in such a short time period.”
The delegation has one more day of meetings before returning home on Thursday, Oct. 26 and more are planned in the coming months.