Hurricane fund sits idle with $182M
As a Hawaii homeowner and taxpayer, what ever happened to the hurricane fund we paid into? I missed the boat. Any update?
Answer: The boat basically is waiting at the dock to help bail out homeowners the next time a severe hurricane hits.
In the meantime, however, the state is taking out the interest generated by the fund, while the state Legislature earmarked $8 million of the principal for certain projects.
The Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund was created by the Legislature in 1993, following disastrous losses suffered by homeowners because of Hurricane Iniki the year before. With more than a billion dollars in claims, property insurance companies either folded, left the state or stopped issuing new policies.
Initially, hurricane relief fund premiums, special mortgage recording fees and annual insurance company assessments were deposited into the fund. The fund's premiums were serviced by participating private companies.
The fund shut down its operations in 2002.
"Since then we don't issue any policies, so we provide no coverage in the marketplace," explained Lloyd Lim, acting executive director of the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund. "We're basically sitting here, watching over the moneys."
There is about $182 million in the fund, if you count money to be taken out next year.
By law, if there is a scarcity of hurricane insurance in the future, the board of the hurricane fund can restart the fund without legislative action, Lim said.
The board reviews the fund's investments once a year. Currently, about $6 million in interest is generated annually, and that interest is deposited into the state's general fund.
Last year, the Legislature took action to actually spend some of the principal -- $4 million over two years for a hurricane retrofit grant program and $4 million over two years for civil defense disaster preparedness programs.
Meanwhile, Gov. Linda Lingle is proposing this year to use some of the $6 million in interest to help pay for proposed improvements to the state's emergency preparedness and civil defense programs.
Q: Is there a law requiring private property owners to remove coconuts from overhanging trees over public spaces that are life-threatening? In our neighborhood a few coconut trees hang over the public sidewalk and also over the entire narrow road. I'm worried that the coconuts, even the small ones, could fall from these very tall trees. We should be able to call a public safety agency who can require the owner to remove the coconuts immediately.
A: Call the city Department of Planning and Permitting's Housing Code Section at 527-6308.
If the overhanging coconut trees are creating a hazard to pedestrians, the city could issue a citation to the property owner, an official said.
The pertinent law is Chapter 14 of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu, dealing with sidewalks, he said.
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