Maui United Way, a charitable nonprofit serving Maui for more than 75 years, created and implemented an Emergency Financial Assistance program that received more than 9,000 applications, and has now successfully distributed payments of $1,000 to more than 7,000 individual fire survivors on Maui.
This unprecedented, $7 million effort was made possible by partnering with other nonprofits, payout platform Tremendous, NASA Harvest, Hawaii Community Foundation and more.
Immediately after catastrophic fires displaced thousands of Maui families, Maui United Way recognized that direct financial assistance would be one vital component of addressing the needs of the fire survivors. Their Emergency Financial Assistance program was developed and launched nine days after the fires broke out, and was open for applications from Aug. 18-29. The program offered a one-time $1,000 financial assistance payment, not to exceed $5,000 per household, for adult fire survivors living in the impacted fire zones in Lahaina and Kula.
“This is the largest undertaking we have ever tackled in our 75-year history on Maui,” said Nicholas Winfrey, President of Maui United Way. “The program was made possible by the many generous donations from our local kama’aina, those living on the mainland, and folks from around the world. More than 60,000 individual donors to Maui United Way, along with donations to the Hawai’i Community Foundation, showed Maui fire survivors that the world cared about them and their recovery.”
Maui United Way forged a rapid partnership with Honolulu-based Aloha United Way to construct a comprehensive process for reviewing intake forms for the program. They worked together to minimize waste, fraud, and abuse, while ensuring swift disbursement of funds to those in the affected areas.
Aloha United Way also deployed its 211 Resource Helpline, which put fire survivors in contact with local community resource specialists who helped more than 2,400 survivors submit applications and identify resources for additional urgent needs. This 211 Resource Helpline was offered in multiple languages.
Jennifer Pecher, Vice President of Aloha United Way’s 211 Community Response Programs, said, “Our culturally-sensitive and trauma-informed Specialists, all residents of Hawaii, tirelessly answered a call volume four times higher than the average, providing support during an exceptionally vulnerable and challenging period.”
Pecher added, “211 has been serving the people of Hawaii for over 30 years and will continue to answer the calls into the long road of recovery. Our dedication to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Maui United Way and supporting our cherished island community remains unwavering.”
Maui United Way team also collaborated with NASA Harvest, which has been collaborating with Maui United Way on a regenerative agriculture project. NASA Harvest used its advanced satellite mapping techniques to ensure that funds were allocated exclusively to residents with valid addresses within the fire-affected zones.
Tremendous, a trusted third-party payout company, played a pivotal role facilitating the swift electronic disbursement of funds while securely storing the confidential financial information of the fire survivors.
“Providing flexible financial aid when survivors are most vulnerable is paramount to helping them recover with dignity,” said Nick Baum, co-founder and CEO of Tremendous. “From physical Visa cards to digital options like virtual Visas, PayPal, Venmo and direct bank transfer, we are facilitating the distribution of more than $7 million in relief aid. Because Maui United Way chose Tremendous, thousands of impacted people in West Maui can easily buy what they need most,” he added.
This service provider is used by more than 10,000 organizations, including a long-running initiative by United Way’s national 211 program. With Tremendous, Maui United Way was able to offer recipients flexible assistance options while maintaining stringent protocols to safeguard financial data and deliver transparent payment reporting. Thousands of families have received support quickly and conveniently online, while hundreds have opted to pick up a plastic Visa card locally.
Tremendous waived processing fees, enabling Maui United Way to extend assistance to hundreds of additional survivors.
In addition to this individual assistance effort, Maui United Way has approved 20 grants to nonprofit partners offering direct relief to impacted families including: Locally grown food provided by Maui’s farmers; Transportation for those who have had their vehicles destroyed; Mortgage and insurance assistance; Help replacing identification lost in the fires; Crisis counseling; Disability services, Childcare services; and Health care, including from Native Hawaiian practitioners.
Maui United Way has now launched the second round of grants to assist its local Maui nonprofit partners. Grants will be awarded in the following four critical focus areas: Keiki and young adults, Mental health, Stable housing, and Job training, education, and employment services.
“Response from our nonprofit partners has been fantastic, and we have assembled a solid crew of evaluators to review the grants, including members of Lahaina’s fire survivor community,” said Winfrey. “We know the road is a long one, and we want to light the way as much as we can. Maui United Way is here for the long haul.”