Governor Josh Green, M.D., announced an initiative today toward a collective path forward to recovery from the catastrophic Maui wildfires of Aug. 8, 2023.
A new recovery fund which will exceed $150 million, will distribute money to families of those who died, and to those who suffered severe personal injuries in the Maui wildfires. The settlements will allow those who have already endured such tragedy, to begin healing more quickly.
Beneficiaries who voluntarily opt in to the program will receive payments of more than $1M as early as the second quarter of next year after an administrator is selected and a protocol is finalized.
“I have been talking about this fund for the last three months and I am beyond grateful to be able to formally announce initial details today,” Governor Green said. “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. When we all join as one, we can diminish suffering,” the Governor said.
The Governor’s Path Forward letter formalizes the next step in the recovery process.
To help finance the recovery effort, all options will be considered, including securitization plans that are in the interest of all of Hawai‘i. To protect consumers from significant increases in their energy and insurance bills as a result of the fire, a comprehensive legislative package will be submitted to protect consumers while allowing for fund generation going forward, to improve and harden the grid and address the impacts of climate change. Additional actions will be taken to better protect Hawai‘i from fire risks going forward.
Initial partners in the fund include the State of Hawai‘i, Hawaiian Electric, Kamehameha Schools (KS), and Maui County. More organizations are anticipated to join in support of this healing effort as part of Governor Green’s One ‘Ohana Initiative, which describes the many recovery programs the state has initiated, or which have been launched as part of numerous efforts to benefit the entire state. These include the $100M Maui Relief TANF Program; the updated siren policy by the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency; Hawaiian Electric’s wildfire safety strategy, and many others.
The One ‘Ohana Initiative will proactively continue to provide financial support to those needing help after wildfire and recovery efforts to promote Hawai‘i’s recovery in a manner that will best serve the people of Hawaiʻi and Maui, rather than the interests of mainland and international banks. Partners are providing substantial monetary sums to victims much faster than they could receive through litigation. Those who choose to receive money from the fund will waive their ability to bring legal action related to associated claims.
The One ʻOhana Initiative is our framework for developing a global, Hawaiʻi-centric solution for Hawai‘i’s recovery from the August 2023 wildfires on Maui. The intent is for key local stakeholders—the One ʻOhana Initiative partners—to work to ensure that the families of those lost or seriously injured in the wildfire can choose to obtain swift and generous financial payment for their losses, without the need to go through time-consuming litigation, and to finance the rebuilding of Lahaina in a manner that embodies HawaiʻI values and traditions.
“Our hope is that those families who choose to engage in this process can find a healing path to closure,” said Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen.
This recovery fund was created to provide compensation in a similar way to funds set up following other catastrophic tragedies including 9/11, the Boston Marathon Bombing and, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, to name a few.
“One of the strengths of Hawaiʻi is that we understand we are all one ʻohana. When we come together in force and with aloha, we build a stronger future for Maui and everyone in Hawaiʻi,” said Shelee Kimura, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric. “I appreciate the courageous leadership of Governor Green to forge a path that allows us to work together toward solutions that can help Maui’s people and communities in a way that reflects Hawaiʻi’s values.”
Hawaiian Electric recently announced the advancement of its wildfire safety strategy created in 2019, acknowledging the heightened risks for wildfires across the state. The utility is building upon its current strategy, implementing new and expanded practices to further reduce the risk of wildfires.
“I have worked closely with the Governor on a compensation fund to provide some immediate relief to the families who have suffered such tragic losses,” said attorney Mark Davis, founding partner of Davis Levin Livingston, a prominent plaintiffs’ attorney who is representing Maui families. “Throughout this complicated process, the Governor has maintained a steadfast sensitivity and commitment to navigating a reasonable outcome for our community. His willingness to listen carefully to the concerns of the many families impacted by this tragedy is part of the leadership this difficult process requires,” Davis said.
“It is a very positive sign that the state is proactively working to bring relief and closure to families who suffered terrible loss,” said attorney Rick Fried, a founding member of Cronin, Fried, Sekiya, Kekina & Fairbanks. “This kind of effort sets Hawai‘i apart from other states and how they dealt with similar crises.”
“We commend the Governor for his leadership in bringing the parties together, recognizing the kuleana that we collectively have to help make our community whole,” said Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement CEO Kūhiō Lewis.
After the recovery fund has helped the victims’ families, and the injured, the next phase of the One ‘Ohana Initiative will focus on property owners and businesses that were severely impacted by the wildfires.
“Generosity in the form of tens of millions of dollars continues to pour in to Hawaiʻi from around the world—through the American Red Cross, the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, Maui United Way and other organizations,” said Gov. Green.
“I’ve authorized $100 million from special Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)… to match what others donate, effectively doubling the power of contributions to help affected families pay for housing, transportation, food, clothing and other needs. To date nearly 1000 families have applied for these funds. We’ve begun to also provide relief to businesses in the form of emergency grants distributed by the Maui Economic Opportunity,” he said.
A copy of Governor Green’s address and the One ‘Ohana Initiative Path Forward letter are attached; the video can be viewed on the Governor’s Facebook page.