Hawaii sets up $150 million fund for wildfire victims

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (D) announced a $150 million relief fund to help support victims of the deadly Maui wildfires and their families Wednesday.

The wildfires killed about a hundred people and forced thousands more from their homes in August. The tourist destination of Lahaina was completely destroyed in the blaze.

Green said the funds will be distributed to people who were injured in the fire or lost loved ones, with payouts nearing $1 million each.

“This fund is made possible by the state and multiple partners who are committed to seeing our Maui community, and our whole state, heal from the most devastating disaster most of us will ever see,” Green said in a statement. “When we all join as one, we can diminish suffering.”

The fund was modeled after the Sept. 11 victim compensation fund, which distributed more than $7 billion to the families of victims of the 2001 terror attacks.

“Our message is clear — in Hawaii, during difficult times, we come together to help one another, and right now we are coming together to help those who have suffered the most,” Green said.

“Over time, the fund will also be used to help families in West Maui recover from the disaster in other ways, including rebuilding homes they have lost,” he added.

It is part of the One ‘Ohana Initiative, Green said, which encapsulates the state and community’s entire response to the devastating wildfires, including more than $100 million in federal funds for housing and changes to emergency response strategies.

Partners in the initiative include the state of Hawaii, the Maui government and Hawaiian Electric, the utility which is believed to have been responsible for the fires.

“Our hope is that those families who choose to engage in this process can find a healing path to closure,” Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said in a statement.

After victims and their families are compensated, the next phase will move on to compensating business and property owners, the governor’s office said in the announcement.

Multiple lawsuits against Hawaiian Electric from fire victims and West Maui property owners are ongoing.

Congress launched an investigation into the disaster in late September, but an initial hearing left many questions unanswered.

A section of land around Lahaina will be turned into a memorial for victims of the fire, the state announced last month.

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