$1.6 million approved to help quake victims
Meanwhile, bridge repairs in East Maui encounter delays
More than $1.6 million in federal disaster relief money began going out to victims yesterday, with the state also announcing the receipt of $600,000 in private donations to help with the recovery from last month's earthquakes off the Kohala Coast.
Meanwhile, Civil Defense officials said it may take longer than first thought to set up a replacement for the badly damaged Paihi Bridge in East Maui, which has cut off about 500 residents in the Kaupo community.
"Although a temporary bridge has been authorized, our engineers are still trying to locate two good foundation points on both sides," said Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, state director of Civil Defense.
He said the Hawaii National Guard was preparing to fly emergency relief missions starting today to provide "not only food and the water, but grain and feed for the animals, mail -- everything that this community has gone without for the last couple of days."
On the Big Island, government officials said residents who qualified for federal disaster assistance should expect checks this week, particularly for those who set up electronic fund transfers.
A total of $1,629,271 in federal funds for housing assistance was approved yesterday, Gov. Linda Lingle's office said.
Michael Karl, coordinating officer in Hawaii for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that as of Monday night, 1,025 individuals had registered for assistance by phone or online, while 495 people visited disaster recovery centers either to get more information or to apply in person.
With the federal money and private funds combined, "I think we're going to see a higher level of service to the victims of this disaster," Karl said.
The $600,000 in private funds was raised by the charity arm of salesforce.com, a San Francisco-based customer relations company headed by part-time Kona resident Mark Benioff, a veteran of the software industry who previously spent 13 years at Oracle Corp.
Benioff said he was in Kona the day of the Oct. 15 quakes, and offered assistance to Lingle via e-mail as soon as power was restored to his home.
"We put a $250,000 matching fund on our home page ... asking our 25,000 customers, 500,000 subscribers and hundreds of partners around the world to help the residents of Hawaii," Benioff said by conference call at a governor's news conference yesterday. "We were overwhelmed by their response. The matching fund was quickly eclipsed."
Lingle thanked Benioff and noted that his e-mail offering assistance was waiting for her after she returned from an aerial tour of the quake damage that day.
"It's very impressive and was done in very short order," Lingle said.
Of those private funds, $200,000 will go to the American Red Cross in Hawaii to meet immediate emergency needs, officials said.
Coralie Chun Matayoshi, chief executive officer of the Red Cross' Hawaii chapter, said so far the organization has done damage assessments on more than 10,000 homes and found 40 destroyed, 217 with major damage and 617 with minor damage.
Also, $50,000 is earmarked for repairs at Kona Community Hospital, while another $50,000 will go to North Kohala Community Resource Center for a special project to repair homes in the Kapaau and Hawi communities, officials said.
The remaining $300,000 will go toward establishing the Hawaii Island Earthquake Recovery Fund.
"This fund focuses on the long-term recovery process of rebuilding and repairing victims' homes," said Kelvin Taketa, chairman and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Community Foundation, a statewide charity that set up the earthquake fund.
Officials noted that the funds would not be set aside for individuals, but would go to programs and organizations with longer-term repair and rebuilding projects.
"It will be used to leverage our ability to help the most people possible by working through organizations," Lingle said.
Meetings to be held for aid applicants
The Major Disaster Declaration signed by President Bush on Oct. 17 for last month's earthquakes provides supplemental funding for all counties under the Federal Public Assistance program.
The program, which covers 75 percent of eligible damage repair costs, is designed to provide federal assistance to state and county governments for the repair of public structures.
Two briefings for potential applicants are scheduled this week.
» Today: 9 to 11 a.m., Aunty Sally's Luau Hale, 799 Piilani St., Hilo.
» Thursday: 9 to 11 a.m., Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa, Keauhou (Convention Center), 78-128 Ehukai St., Kailua-Kona.