Presidential Visit and Multi-Agency Collaboration
In the wake of the devastating wildfires that swept through Maui, Hawaii, a swift and comprehensive response has been launched, with more than 1,000 federal personnel on the ground to aid the affected communities.
President Biden wasted no time, signing a Major Disaster Declaration for the state and initiating a collaborative effort across federal agencies to stand by residents grappling with the unprecedented tragedy.
Biden’s Personal Pledge
Scheduled for Monday, August 21, President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden are set to travel to Maui. Their visit aims to offer solace and solidarity to survivors, first responders, emergency personnel, and state and local officials.
Amid this time of mourning and recovery, the entire nation’s thoughts and support are with Hawaii.
Throughout the wildfires’ progression in Maui, President Biden maintained continuous communication with Hawaii Governor Josh Green, reaffirming the unwavering commitment of the Federal government to aid in the state’s recovery, regardless of the time it takes.
To ensure a well-coordinated response, the President received regular updates from FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall.
With a collective approach, numerous federal departments and agencies are collaborating with local partners on the ground.
Entities such as the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, the Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Forest Service, the Small Business Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency are working diligently to assess ongoing needs and supply essential resources and personnel to support response efforts.
Individuals impacted by the disaster are encouraged to register for Federal assistance at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362, which is available 24/7. A newly established Disaster Recovery Center at the University of Hawaii Maui College is also at the disposal of affected individuals.
It offers face-to-face support, assistance with registration for disaster aid, contact with voluntary organizations providing additional services, and access to federal and state resources. The center’s doors are open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. HST.
Federal Assistance Update
As of August 19, more than 1,000 federal personnel, including over 450 search and rescue team members, are actively aiding Maui residents during this crisis.
The Biden-Harris Administration has authorized nearly $7 million in aid to almost 2,200 households, with a substantial portion allocated for initial rental assistance.
FEMA’s provisions include over 50,000 meals, 75,000 liters of water, 5,000 cots, and 10,000 blankets, all entrusted to the county government for distribution.
A noteworthy partnership between the Hawaii Fire Relief Housing program and FEMA has resulted in a remarkable 50% reduction in survivors housed in congregate shelters by Thursday.
Furthermore, with the dedicated efforts of the Red Cross, there is strong anticipation that all remaining survivors currently in shelters will successfully transition to hotel accommodations by the upcoming week.
Impressively, over 300 Red Cross staff members are actively collaborating to ensure the expeditious delivery of aid.
Presidential Financial Support
On Wednesday, President Biden announced additional disaster funding for Hawaii, authorizing the federal government to cover all eligible expenses for debris removal and emergency protective measures in Maui County.
Furthermore, the federal cost share has been increased from 75% to 100% for a 30-day period, as designated by the Governor within the first 120 days.
Military and Agency Participation
More than 600 Department of Defense personnel and 140 Coast Guard members are actively contributing to the coordinated response to the Western Maui Wildfire. Their roles encompass firefighting, debris search, fuel distribution, and crucial life-sustaining assistance.
Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has deployed 54 responders to provide essential public works and engineering support, including generator installation and infrastructure planning.
Environmental Safeguarding and Disaster Assistance
In collaboration with FEMA and other partners, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has deployed 47 responders to Maui, focusing on the safe disposal of hazardous waste and debris.
EPA guides efforts through a cultural resources plan, ensuring the proper handling of wildfire-affected culturally significant items.
The Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and U.S. Department of Transportation are all actively contributing to the comprehensive federal response.
In a collaborative endeavor, their collective efforts span a wide spectrum – from energy support to health and housing assistance – firmly underscoring a holistic approach to the recovery process.
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has crafted a comprehensive guide for disaster-stricken residents, offering valuable insights into handling finances during emergencies. It covers topics like housing, property damage, bill management, and accessing assistance from financial institutions.
Ensuring Heritage Preservation
The Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF), in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution and FEMA, is closely collaborating with Hawaii’s cultural heritage emergency network.
Together, their united efforts aim to seamlessly incorporate museums and cultural sites into FEMA’s damage assessments, ensuring that long-term recovery planning comprehensively encompasses the preservation of these invaluable assets.