Federal officials say more than 3,000 people in Maui have registered for various kinds of federal assistance — a number that’s expected to grow. FEMA Director of Operations for Response and Recovery Jeremy Greenberg told reporters that the agency is distributing aid, including $700 one-time payments for critical needs such a water and medical supplies as well as lodging paid for by FEMA.
The Biden administration and the Hawaiian government has launched a transitional shelter assistance program for residents in need of housing, letting them move to hotels or motels, FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell told reporters Monday at the White House briefing.
“We’re not taking anything off the table and we’re going to be very creative in how we use our authorities to help build communities and help people find a place to stay for the longer term,” Criswell said.
The Biden administration is seeking $12 billion in additional money for the government’s disaster relief fund as part of its supplemental funding request to Congress. Criswell said that “we do have adequate funding to do the response that we’re doing right now,” but that additional money will be needed to continue all of the other ongoing recovery projects through September.
The National Weather Service is monitoring Tropical Storm Greg, which is passing well to the south of Hawaii with minimal effects expected. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Liaison Da’Vel Johnson said they’re mindful of drought and dry conditions on the island but there aren’t any fire-related hazards in effect.
Active duty forces ready to assist
The U.S. National Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Coast Guard are assisting with recovery efforts in the communities reeling from fires in Maui, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said on Monday.
However, no active duty forced are involved yet, Ryder said. That raises questions as to why not — Hawaii is home to tens of thousands of active duty military personnel, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and major Navy and Air Force installations, with ships and aircraft that could assist in flying in supplies or personnel.
Ryder said those forces are ready to provide whatever support is requested by Hawaii, but that rushing in resources too quickly could create additional logistics problems for rescue operations on the ground.
The multi-agency fire response has already been stymied by logistical issues and communication challenges, particularly during evacuations when sirens failed to sound and roadblocks hindered residents leaving.
“Indo-Pacom is on a hair trigger to be able to support as necessary,” Ryder said. “Everyone fully understands the pain that people are experiencing right now. We want to do everything we can help. But we also don’t want to contribute to the problem by sending unnecessary capabilities that then will hinder any type of emergency response.”
So far 250 Hawaii Army National Guard and Air National Guard members are assisting recovery operations, Army National Guard helicopters have dropped more than 189,000 gallons of water on the wildfires, the Army Corps of Engineers have sent debris removal teams and power experts and the Army Reserve has provided space to collect and distribute supplies, Ryder said.