HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – New data shows Maui's visitors and revenue continue to decline as the island's economy struggles to recover from devastating wildfires.
About 600 businesses have closed since the Aug. 8 wildfires, according to the Hawaii Small Business Development Center on Maui.
The center's director, Wayne Wong, said there are stores facing eviction across Valley Isle.
“It's a very difficult situation, and there are no subsidies for businesses outside the fire area,” Wong said. “The governor talked about one thing, the mayor talked about another, and there was nothing.”
Mr Wong said he had received hundreds of calls for help since the fire.
“They have suffered economic damage, but because they are not burn victims, they are not eligible for assistance and it is very difficult.”
Wong said Lahaina is home to about 1,100 businesses.
Kathleen Stout's shop, The Jewelry Stand Maui, has been around for nearly 30 years.
She lost everything on August 8th.
“I'm sad to know that my business, my livelihood and my passion for 26 years in downtown Lahaina is gone,” Stout said. “I have jewelry made for them, but given the business I've established and the years of hard work, love, and passion, it's hard to see where the future will take it.”
Stout later opened an online shop, but the road to recovery was difficult.
“We're not seeing any progress in finding a new location or getting help,” Stout said. “I've tried every right way I know to ask for help, and so far I don't know anyone.”
Special Section: Maui Wildfire Disaster
Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism Director James Kunane Tokioka said the state sent $12.5 million to Maui County to help businesses a month after the fires started.
But so far no one has received the money. It was handed over to the county council for approval.
And now the application process and requirements are being finalized.
“We're hoping that whatever the logjam is, it will be resolved with a business loan. As I've explained before, unless you move out of Hawaii, this loan will be a forgivable loan.” said Tokioka. “If you are moving from Maui because you have no business on Maui, you are allowed to go to another island, but if you are moving to the mainland, you are not allowed.”
Tokioka said the funds will ultimately be distributed through three agencies: the Maui Economic Development Commission, Maui Community Federal Credit Union and Maui Economic Opportunities.
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