FEMA quake checks in the mail
By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer
By Treena Shapiro
Some 337 Big Island residents whose homes were damaged in the Oct. 15 earthquakes will soon get some relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA started mailing out checks totaling $1.6 million yesterday to those who qualify for assistance while they repair or rebuild their homes.
The federal grants will be supplemented by the Hawai'i Island Earthquake Recovery Fund, announced yesterday to assist Big Island residents who need longer-term help.
Michael Karl, FEMA's federal coordinating officer, said that some residents will be made whole by a combination of grants and Small Business Administration loans, but "almost certainly we cannot meet everyone's needs."
He said that's why it's so important to have public donations.
"Our hope is that everyone is insured and insurance pays for it all, but it never does, and there are always unmet needs," he said.
In the two weeks since the earthquakes, more than 600 people have visited disaster recovery centers in Waimea and Kailua, Kona, and more than 1,000 have registered for FEMA assistance in person or by telephone, said Katie Corsaut, spokeswoman for FEMA on the Big Island.
The agency will open a third disaster recovery center on the Big Island today at the Kohala Senior Center in Kapa'au, Corsaut said. The other centers are at the Waimea YMCA and the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa ballroom.
The centers are staffed by state, county and federal officials, and are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The new recovery fund, which will be administered by the Hawai'i Community Foundation, received a $300,000 donation from the Salesforce.com Foundation, which yesterday announced $600,000 in total relief assistance.
Company founder and CEO Marc Benioff, a part-time Big Island resident, also earmarked $50,000 for repairs to Kona Community Hospital, $50,000 to the North Kohala Community Resource Center to repair homes in Kapa'au and Hawi, and $200,000 to the American Red Cross.
After the earthquakes, Benioff had offered to match $250,000 in donations from his customers, employees and business partners, who exceeded his expectations.
"We were overwhelmed," he said, adding that the foundation raised $100,000 more than its goal.
The donation was a blessing for the Red Cross, which will be providing assistance to people on Maui as well as the Big Island.
Coralie Chun Matayoshi, CEO for the state's Red Cross chapter, said that the organization has inspected 10,000 homes and found 40 destroyed, 217 with major damage and 617 with minor damage.
Today the Red Cross will be flying in food, water, grain for livestock and other essentials to about 500 residents in Kaupo on Maui, which has been cut off from the rest of the island by a bridge collapse.
The Oct. 15 quakes caused at least $200 million in property damage, mostly on the west coast of the Big Island.
According to Gov. Linda Lingle, the Hawai'i Island Earthquake Recovery Fund will not be used to give donations to individuals, but rather to offer money to nonprofits that can call on volunteer labor "to leverage our ability to help the most people possible working through organizations."Staff writer Kevin Dayton contributed to this report.
Reach Treena Shapiro at email@example.com.