Despite some glowing heat from fissure 8, the Kīlauea lava flow has slowed down, at least for the time being. But the destruction and displacement from the flow into lower Puna which began May 3rd is still being addressed by county, state and federal agencies. We get an update on the federal response from HPR Contributing Reporter Sherry Bracken.
Governor David Ige and Mayor Harry Kim have stressed how critical the support from the federal government has been during the lava flow disaster. David Mace of FEMA is now stationed in Hilo, and says the agency operates to help those displaced by disasters.
David “FEMA comes in and looks at solutions for disaster survivors who’ve really lost out on traditional housing options. FEMA normally provides rental assistance to displaced persons and they use that money to rent an apartment or home where they stay til their house is repaired or replaced.”
Because most lava victims no longer have homes to which they can return, FEMA has activated what they call the Direct Housing Program. Mace explained, starting with FEMA’s Direct Lease Program.
David: “FEMA, the federal government, will lease properties through a property management company; we’ll provide those properties to disaster survivors who need an additional housing option. There’s also the Locally Designed and Fabricated option, we’re basically looking for fabricated units similar to the micro shelter units that were constructed in Pāhoa. These programs that we’ve activated, the Direct Housing programs are the last resort, we only do this when we can’t find rental property for disaster survivors and that’s obviously the case in lower Puna where it’s a very, very tight housing market and obviously the loss of the units that were destroyed down there has made it tighter.”
Mace said in some areas, FEMA offers long-term hotel stays, but that’s not an option on the Big Island where tourism is high and hotel space close to Pahoa not always available.