The federal government is facing criticism for its response to Maui’s wildfires as the confirmed death toll rises to 111. Some have been especially critical of Biden’s $700 one-time payment to affected households.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appeared at Edget on the Square Thursday, a new art space in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
AsAmNews asked the former Speaker of the House whether enough is being done for those affected.
“Oh no, we will do much more than that, that is what the right just says right away,” she said referencing widespread criticism of the federal response from Republicans.
Many of those affected by the wildfires have criticized the $700 payments are not being anywhere near enough. The offer is only available to residents who were displaced from their homes and had critical needs, and it’s unclear how eligibility must be proven.
National Republicans joined in, often comparing disaster funding to the amount of aid given to Ukraine.
According to the Honolulu Civil Beat, FEMA is expected to run through its vital Disaster Relief Fund within a month, pressed by repeated disasters in recent years. On August 10th, the Biden administration asked the House to pass a supplemental funding request including $12 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
But that supplemental funding is yet to pass as congressional Republicans become more and more reluctant to support another part of the request, more aid for Ukraine.
Back in June, representatives and delegates from disaster-pressed states and territories led by Hawaii’s Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) tried to head off the issue by introducing a bill to give $11.5 billion to FEMA, but the bill remains stalled in committee.
Though co-sponsored by territorial Republicans from Guam and Puerto Rico, it’s unlikely the bill could reach the floor and gain the support it needs from Republicans in the House of Representatives unless an additional request for 24 billion for Ukraine is detached.
The emergency recovery efforts led by FEMA and the state government are only going to be one part of the equation for Maui’s recovery. KHON2 reported the County of Maui estimated $5.52 billion is needed to rebuild hard-struck Lahaina, once the Hawaiian royal capital, and even more for the rest of Maui that was affected.
Pelosi’s response suggests she’d put her considerable weight in the House behind a bill to aid Maui’s recovery, but one has yet to be introduced.
Dustin Kleiopu, a Native Hawaiian whose home was incinerated by the fire told NBC News in an interview that “Native Hawaiians have shouldered the relief effort because they do not expect help from the local or federal government.” Other Native Hawaiians and Maui residents have echoed similar sentiments in Morning Brew, and told tourists to stay away.
But Maui’s disastrous wildfires are just the worst example yet of the threats to Hawaii driven by climate change. According to researchers quoted in the New York Times, low rainfall, rising temperatures and invasive species turned the island into a ‘tinderbox.’
In a recording from the Recount, Pelosi yesterday said at the anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act that “At a time when our thoughts, our prayers with the people of Maui and so many communities are battling devastating disaster, there’s no more urgent task than saving our planet.”
The Inflation Reduction Act included $370 billion to combat the climate crisis, the largest climate act in history. But, according to the independent research project Climate Action Tracker, unless further action is taken, the US’s climate action remains “insufficient” to reach its goals.
Hawaii Gov Josh Green offered some tips on how to donate, which you can read here.
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