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Heeding Call from Hawaii Delegation, FEMA to Reopen Disaster Response Program to Include COFA Citizens

WASHINGTON, DC – In response to a letter from U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) and U.S. Representatives Jill Tokuda (D-HI) and Ed Case (D-HI), the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that they are reopening enrollment for the Individuals and Households Program (IHP) to include Compacts of Free Association (COFA) citizens impacted by the Maui wildfires. The IHP is one of the many FEMA disaster response programs that have been used to support Maui communities as they continue to recover after the devastating wildfires.

“As recovery efforts on Maui continue, we are glad to see FEMA reopen IHP enrollment for COFA citizens who have been impacted by the devastating wildfires,” said the Hawaii Congressional delegation in a joint statement. “COFA citizens are valuable members of our communities, which is why we fought to restore their eligibility for federal benefits, including FEMA support. FEMA’s decision will unlock critical assistance for those COFA citizens impacted by the fires. We appreciate the Biden Administration’s responsiveness to our request, and the ongoing support they are providing to help Maui’s families recover and rebuild.”

In their letter, sent earlier this week, the lawmakers noted that a provision Senator Hirono secured in the recently passed COFAs—which were signed into law last week by President Biden—enables COFA citizens to be eligible for FEMA programs, such as the IHP. The IHP provides financial and direct services to eligible individuals and households impacted by a disaster. According to FEMA, IHP assistance may include financial assistance for temporary housing; a temporary housing unit; funds to support repair or replacement of homes; hazard mitigation assistance; or funds for uninsured or under-insured disaster-caused expenses.