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What Kent of Grassroot learned during recent visit to Lahaina

“Slowly,” “really expensive” and “frustrating” were words Joe Kent, executive vice president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, used last week to describe how Lahaina’s recovery efforts are going.

Speaking with radio host Johnny Miro on the H. Hawaii Media radio network, which has stations on Oahu, Maui and Kauai, Kent said he had just visited Lahaina where he observed:

>> Federal aid money is pouring in, but “no one seems to know where it’s going.”

>> Billions of dollars will have to go to install new infrastructure, but that will take four or five years to complete, which will delay homebuilding.

>> Thousands of displaced Lahaina residents are staying in hotels, but few of them are happy about it because the hotel rooms typically have no kitchens or hot plates. Including hotel food, it is costing around $1,000 a day per household to stay at a hotel.

>> Between the state’s share of the costs for putting up residents, which is approaching $600 million, and another $400 million sought by Maui County, state lawmakers are looking at close to $1 billion in expenses —  much higher than anyone thought.

According to Kent, the only way the state can pay for this is through massive budget cuts, since raising taxes or taking on more debt would just worsen the state’s existing cost-of-living problems.

“If housing wasn’t so notoriously hard to build in Hawaii, particularly on Maui,” he noted, “we wouldn’t have to pay for all these expensive options [for sheltering those displaced].”

If you would like to hear the entire 30-minute interview, click on the video below.

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