State will need to assist Big Island quake victims
One of every 25 homes on the Big Island was damaged by the Oct. 15 earthquakes.
DAMAGE estimates from the Oct. 15 earthquakes have soared in the past week as the Red Cross and federal officials have tallied homes and other structures
in need of repair or replacement. Federal assistance will be limited, and the state should find other means to help Big Island residents recover from the disaster.
Federal and Big Island officials estimated damage at $46 million two days after the quake, mostly to schools and Kawaihae harbor, but that figure has more than doubled. The Red Cross last Saturday reported 27 homes were destroyed and 984 homes were damaged. The Federal Emergency Management Agency reported a day earlier that 10 homes were destroyed and 1,627 damaged.
By this week, as many as 2,000 of the Big Island's 50,000 homes were found to have had some kind of damage, according to Gary Chock, vice president of the Structural Engineers Association of Hawaii. He said Hawaii County has received more than 1,000 individual requests for evaluation of building damages.
President Bush's designation of the state as a disaster area made federal funding available to state and county governments. Individuals, households and businesses are eligible for federal loans of up to $200,000 and, for those who don't qualify, grants of up to $25,000. Grants following disasters have averaged less than $3,000 for needs, temporary housing, transportation and death benefits, according to FEMA spokesman James Shebl.
Patrick Kidder, FEMA division supervisor for the Big Island, said he expects the Small Business Administration to make many loans and grants because few of the victims have earthquake insurance. Hawaii residents and businesses spent $4.4 million on earthquake insurance last year, compared with $250 million on total homeowners policies.
State Farm insures 103,000 homes in the state but only 123 for earthquake damage, and none on the Big Island. It does not offer earthquake insurance there because of its frequent seismic activity.
Senate President Robert Bunda suggests that money from the state's Hurricane Relief Fund could be used for an earthquake reinsurance fund. Big Island Rep. Bob Herkes had proposed before the quake that the hurricane fund be broadened into a natural disaster fund.
Gov. Linda Lingle and legislative leaders agree that state tax credits could be offered to earthquake victims, just as Manoa Valley residents received tax credits to repair their homes from damage caused by the 2004 flood.