(MAUI, Hawaii) — Hawaii Gov. Josh Green announced a new recovery fund as part of the One ‘Ohana Initiative, which will set aside more than $150 million for the victims of the Maui wildfires that began on Aug. 8.
The families of those who were killed by the blazes, as well as those who “suffered severe personal injuries” could receive more than $1 million each. At least 99 people have been confirmed to have died in the tragedy.
“Our message is clear — in Hawaii, during difficult times, we come together to help one another, and right now we are coming together to help those who have suffered the most,” the governor said.
He added, “Over time, the fund will also be used to help families in West Maui recover from the disaster in other ways, including rebuilding homes they have lost.”
State Attorney General Anne Lopez told ABC News that those participating in the fund would be required to waive their right to seek tort liability against parties involved in the fund for wrongful death and severe personal injury.
“The protocol would require people to sign the release releasing the parties who are participating in the fund from any tort liability,” Lopez said in a statement. “We are still working on finalizing the protocol, but once the protocol is finished, we will be able to share that.”
After the recovery fund helps victims’ families and those who’ve been injured, the next phase of the initiative will focus on property owners and businesses that were severely impacted by the wildfires. Green said to expect “a comprehensive legislative package” to protect consumers from increased energy bills as a result of the fire — which has put significant strain on the island’s delicate electric grid.
With thousands of residential structures destroyed and thousands more residents displaced and unemployed, the financial and emotional impact on locals has become increasingly dire.
The first phase of beneficiaries who apply for the fund could receive their money as early as the second quarter of next year after an administrator is selected and a protocol is finalized.
“The settlements will allow those who have already endured such tragedy, to begin healing more quickly,” the governor said.
The creation of the recovery fund is inspired by funds set up following other catastrophic tragedies, including the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Boston Marathon Bombing and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“Our hope is that those families who choose to engage in this process can find a healing path to closure,” said Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.