FEMA programs offer immediate funds, housing assistance for Maui wildfire survivors

Maui wildfire survivors can apply for immediate FEMA benefits to cover gas, food and critical needs. Free WiFi is available at shelters and disaster relief centers in Maui.

Thousands of Maui residents who fled their homes during the deadly brush fires are eligible for emergency benefits to cover critical supplies and temporary housing.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration is on the ground in Maui for response and recovery efforts after thousands of homes and structures were destroyed last week during the wildfires fueled by 70 mph wind gusts moving fires more than 1 mile a minute.

FEMA activated the Critical Needs Assistance program, which provides a one-time payment of $700 per household for life-sustaining items, including water, food, first aid, prescriptions, infant formula, diapers, medical equipment and fuel. 

Maui's wildfire survivors can apply for assistance by completing a FEMA application and providing identification. The application can be completed online through the FEMA mobile app, the website or by calling the 24-hour disaster assistance helpline at 1-800-621-3362.


FEMA is working with Hawaii and the local government in Maui to address the critical housing shortage. 

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said over 2,200 structures in Lahaina were destroyed, with nearly 90% of those residential housing.

The FEMA Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program is active for those impacted by the fires in need of temporary housing. The program will pay for nightly rooms, including pet fees at participating hotels. 

Fire survivors need a FEMA registration ID for Hawaii DR-4724 to participate in the TSA program. After registering for FEMA assistance, you can find a participating hotel here. 

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell spoke about the challenges after taking stock of the housing resources on the island. Criswell said the traditional emergency housing options used in the continental U.S. will not cover all the needs in Maui. 

"We are working very closely with the governor to better understand all available options, whether that means longer term, we bring in tiny houses or our transitional housing units to help him create the communities that he wants," Criswell said. "We're not taking anything off the table, and we're going to be very creative in how we use our authorities to help build these communities and help people find a place to stay for the longer term."


Applying for benefits or even communication is still difficult in Maui. Many areas do not have cellphone signal or internet. 

Spectrum opened 8,000 hot spots across Hawaii with free WiFi access. Hawaiian Telcom and/or Spectrum Internet are offering WiFi at the War Memorial Gymnasium, Kihei Gym, Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center, War Memorial Stadium and Iron Maehara Stadium.

Hawaiian Telcom service has been restored to 10,000 customers in Kula and Makawao and several cell sites in Hosmer Grove.

Hawaiian Telcom customers can request to have calls to their landline numbers forwarded free of charge to another phone number.

Starlink internet service users have reportedly been opening up their WiFi in other areas of the island because transportation is still limited, and thousands of vehicles were also destroyed in the fires.