362 seek federal flood help
Officials say there is still time to register for assistance at centers across the state
Statewide, 362 people have signed up for federal help following a 43-day spate of rainstorms that drenched the islands and spurred the deadly breach of Ka Loko Dam on Kauai, officials announced yesterday.
State Civil Defense spokesman Dave Curtis said it is unclear if the figure is a good representation of how many sustained significant damage in the torrential rain and flooding that stretched from Feb. 19 to April 2.
» The Federal Emergency Management Agency has given out $272,697 in grants to Hawaii residents affected by heavy rain in February, March and April.
» In all, 362 people have registered for federal help.
» FEMA inspectors have visited 229 homes statewide.
» On Oahu and Kauai, 164 people have visited disaster recovery centers, where officials from federal, state, city and volunteer agencies offer assistance.
Source: State Civil Defense
But he noted there is still time to register for assistance. Even residents and business owners who have already paid for repairs can turn in receipts to qualify for reimbursements or loans, he said.
"Frankly, there's a lot of people out there who had damage and they fixed it," Curtis said. "Some people don't want to go through the hassle for a few dollars -- but it's really not a hassle."
Disaster recovery centers will be open next week at Kauai War Memorial and Kahala Mall.
A disaster center at Kualoa Ranch shut down last night, but a Small Business Administration Outreach Center will remain at the site until further notice.
Since early May the Federal Emergency Management Agency has doled out $272,697 to disaster victims.
FEMA spokesman Ken Higginbotham said the grants were used to help residents with "immediate needs," including medical needs and fuel. FEMA inspectors have also surveyed 229 homes statewide.
On May 2, President Bush issued an emergency disaster declaration for Hawaii, allowing FEMA to step in to coordinate disaster relief efforts.
To qualify for the declaration, the estimate for damage from the back-to-back storms had to hit $50 million.
State officials said yesterday they are still tallying damage. But, they added, the total will likely be well above $50 million.
Meanwhile, Higginbotham said people continue to trail into disaster recovery centers or register for assistance by phone or online. "That's the first step in the recovery process," he said. "It opens a lot of doors for them."
He said the centers will remain open as long as there is a need for them, which is being evaluated on a week-by-week basis.
Dawn and Jerome Nozawa registered for federal assistance in April and have not yet heard back from FEMA.
"We're waiting," Jerome Nozawa said. "I think it takes time because they have to look at everybody, and I'm sure they'll let us know as soon as they can."
The Kaaawa couple's home was the hardest hit in their neighborhood after a storm on March 2. That day, they saw their home and petting zoo awash in a river of mud. They lost beds, appliances and heirlooms.
And they still have tons of dirt and rocks in their back yard that came down from the mountains during heavy rains. "You can't blame anyone for that," said Nozawa, who grew up in the home.
The couple, along with hundreds of others statewide, could also be eligible for tax credits in 2007.
Gov. Linda Lingle signed into law yesterday a one-time tax break of up to 10 percent for those who suffered flood damage in the recent rain, a news release said.
Victims of the October 2004 Manoa Valley flood are also eligible for the tax credit. Officials estimate the break will cost the state about $9.5 million. The tax credit is part of a law that is expected to provide about $50 million in tax reductions to Hawaii residents.