Aloha Chamber Members,
Please see the updates below on the next phase of cleanup (hazardous waste) & the Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program (DUA).
Next Phase: Hazardous Waste Cleanup - County of Maui Press Release
8/29/23 – Next phase: Hazardous material removal will set groundwork to allow residents and businesses to re-enter Lahaina
Emphasizing that Maui County will prioritize the community – by weighing safety, cultural, environmental and resident interests – Mayor Richard Bissen announced today, Aug. 29, 2023, the transition from the search and recovery phase in Lahaina to the next phase, which will set the groundwork for residents and businesses to return to properties and workplaces.
“The county will champion the interest of our community, with safety, cultural and community priorities. And we will drive locally these steps as we move forward,” Mayor Bissen said at a Wailuku press conference with state and federal partners. “No one in our state has ever experienced the magnitude of this disaster and the degree of tragedy, therefore as we move through it, coordination with all county, state and federal agencies are occurring daily with my team.”
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) removal of hazardous material from Upcountry properties was completed over the weekend.
As the search and recovery effort is nearly complete in Lahaina, the EPA will begin work to remove and dispose of household hazardous material from properties affected by West Maui wildfires. This next phase is being coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), with support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
No debris removal will begin without the written consent of the property owner. A plan for residents to safely access their property is being developed.
Emergency Management Agency chief federal response coordinator Robert J. Fenton, Jr., said safety, along with permissions from property and business owners, are key.
“No removal will begin without the permission of the property owner,” he said. “To the affected residents, please know, we will work with you.”
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency incident commander Steve Calanog echoed what other agency leaders said – that Lahaina’s cultural significance will be respected in the process.
“We know the long rich and historic cultural significance of Lahaina,” he said. “We have 25 cultural observers on our team to ensure that we proceed with respect. We have a team on island now of about 150 people, 30 percent of which are local hires who we’ve trained in hazmat tech certifications.”
The work of removing household hazardous material from Lahaina will be done by EPA teams working in zones. At this time the disater area is restricted to authorized personnel only and there is no list allowing residents to return to the disaster area. Debris removal from properties will begin after the EPA has removed household hazardous materials from the affected area.
Household hazardous material being removed include paints, cleaners, solvents and oils. Fuel from pressurized cylinders and tanks will be removed as well. The EPA will have an electrician on-site to advise field teams on safely de-energizing and removing home “power bank” batteries. Following removal, the hazardous material will be shipped to the U.S. Mainland where it will be properly disposed of.
While performing this work, the EPA will monitor the air for fine particles of dust (“particulate matter”). The air monitors will be listed on EPA’s Air Now website. After household hazardous material is removed, the EPA may mist a fine adhesive called “Soiltac” on ash on the property. This will prevent ash from blowing off the property and limit runoff. The adhesive is non-toxic and biodegradable.
“Every step we take forward is a step with purpose, intent, and sensitivity,” said Darryl Oliveira, the interim administrator of the Maui Emergency Management Agency. “We’re calling the phase after the hazardous material removal phase, the “Return to Lahaina” phase. We really want to stress we want to get people back home.”
For information on EPA beginning hazardous material removal today, visit the EPA news release.
The full video of Tuesday’s press conference can be found on the County of Maui Facebook page.
Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)
From the State of Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations:
What is Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)?
Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) provides temporary benefits to individuals whose employment or self-employment has been lost or interrupted as a direct result of a major disaster and who are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance (UI). Direct result means loss of employment or self-employment because of the major disaster itself and not the result of a longer chain of events caused or worsened by the disaster. The UI agency will check to see if individuals are eligible for regular UI benefits before finding them eligible for DUA. If individuals are eligible for regular UI benefits, they will receive those benefits instead of DUA.
The U.S. Department of Labor oversees the DUA program and coordinates with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security. DUA is administered by state UI agencies acting as agents of the Federal government whenever a disaster declaration for “individual assistance including DUA” is made.
A “Major Disaster” means any natural catastrophe (such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, snowstorm flood, etc.) or other types of disasters (such as an explosion, natural gas leak, etc.) that result in a Presidential declaration of a disaster. A Presidential declaration is made when it is determined that governmental assistance is needed for communities and individuals directly affected by a disaster. DUA becomes available when the declaration is for “individual assistance including DUA.”
Based upon the request of a state Governor or Tribal Governor/Chief, the President may declare a major disaster in the state. The declaration will define the areas affected by the disaster and may authorize DUA. Public announcements are made in the disaster area advising that DUA is available, providing information on how and when individuals can file for benefits.
Qualifying for DUA
One of the following conditions of unemployment must have occurred as a direct result of the disaster to qualify for DUA:
1.The individual has had a week of unemployment following the date the major disaster began;
2.The individual is unable to reach his/her place of employment;
3.The individual was scheduled to start work and the job no longer exists or the individual was unable to reach the job;
4.The individual became the breadwinner or major support because the head of the household died as a direct result of the disaster; or
5.The individual cannot work because of an injury caused as a direct result of the disaster.
In order to be eligible for DUA, individuals who meet one of the qualifying conditions above must also meet all the following eligibility requirements:
The individual is not eligible for regular UI;
The individual is unemployed as a direct result of the disaster;
The individual is able and available for work, unless injured as a direct result of the disaster;
The individual filed an application for DUA within 30 days of the date of the public announcement of the availability of DUA; and
The individual has not refused an offer of employment in a suitable position.
When and Where to File for DUA
Individuals may file a DUA claim online at https://uiclaims.hawaii.gov. If an individual is not able to file a claim online, they may contact the UI agency toll free at (833) 901-2272 or (833) 901-2275 or (808) 762-5751 or (808) 762-5752.
Applications for DUA must be filed within 30 days of the announcement of the availability of DUA in the state.
Continued Claim Certifications
Individuals should go to https://labor.hawaii.gov/ui/ui-forms and download Form ETA 83 – Weekly Request for Assistance. Instructions on how to complete and submit form are also available online.
The claim forms must be submitted weekly for each week you are claiming DUA assistance. The period for the weekly claim always begins on Sunday and ends on the Saturday of the week you are filing for. The claim forms must be postmarked or received by the unemployment claims office within 7 days from the weekending date of the claim. The claim may be accepted beyond 7 days if you can show good cause for the late filing. Filing DUA weekly certifications by telephone or internet are not available at this time.
Required Proof of Employment
Individuals will need to provide proof (e.g., income tax return, bank statements) to document employment or self-employment or to document work that was to begin on or after the date of the disaster. If proof of employment cannot be provided at the time the claim is filed, individuals have 21 calendar days from the time the claim was filed to meet this requirement. Failure to submit this documentation within the 21 days will result in a denial of DUA, and any benefits already paid will be considered overpaid. Individuals are required to repay any benefits overpaid.
The DUA Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) Payable and Benefit Duration
An individual’s minimum WBA is for Hawaii DUA is $283. An individual’s WBA may be increased over the minimum WBA based on net earnings (income) from self-employment and/or gross wages from employment. The maximum weekly benefit amount is $763 for 2023.
DUA benefits are generally paid for up to 26 weeks, beginning with the first week following the date the major disaster began, and ending with the 26th week following the date the major disaster is declared by the President.
Disqualification and Termination of DUA
An individual can be disqualified for DUA benefits or DUA benefits can be terminated if any of the following occur:
The individual becomes employed and the earnings exceed the weekly benefit amount allowed under the state’s law;
The individual refuses to accept suitable employment without good cause;
The individual refuses to accept a referral to suitable employment without good cause;
The individual is not able or available for work (unless the inability is due to an injury caused as a direct result of the disaster);
The individual is not available for work, unless the unavailability is due to the individual’s preparations to resume self-employment; or
The individual is no longer unemployed as a direct result of the disaster.
Any denial of DUA benefits may be appealed. Individuals must file the appeal within 60 days of the date the determination was issued.
Funding of DUA Claims
FEMA provides the funding for DUA benefit payments and the costs for states to administer the program. DUA payments are made by state UI agencies to eligible individuals unemployed as a direct result of the disaster.
DUA benefits are subject to Federal income tax. Individuals may elect to have Federal withholding deducted from their DUA payments. Individuals will receive Form 1099-G to file with their income tax return.
Child Support Deductions
Child support payments are deductible from your DUA benefits. If you have any question regarding the deductions made to your check, please contact the appropriate Child Support Enforcement Agency office in your area.
Local Claim Office Information
For contact information for your local claims office, visit https://labor.hawaii.gov/ui/contact.
Sections 410 and 423, Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) (42 USC 5177); Title 20, Chapter V, Part 625, Code of Federal Regulations (20 CFR Part 625), as amended.