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Families whose loved ones died in the Maui wildfires could get $1.5 million each

The 100 families who lost loved ones in Hawaii’s deadliest wildfire could receive up to $1.5 million each from a victim’s compensation fund if they agree not to pursue litigation, Gov. Josh Green said Thursday. 

The announcement came on the six-month commemoration of the Lahaina wildfire on Maui that killed 100 people and displaced nearly 10,000 residents. Some 4,961 people are still living in hotel rooms, according to the state.

“Though we have not completed the recovery, of course, we have begun to heal,” Green said. 

He first announced a victim’s compensation fund in November, saying it would exceed $150 million. The fund, which will be open to applicants March 1, now stands at $175 million, he said Thursday. 

Similar compensation funds have been created following wildfires in California.

Payouts are voluntary and available only to people who sign an agreement not to sue the fund’s participants, including the state, Maui County, Hawaiian Electric Co. and Kamehameha Schools. All four are embroiled in dozens of lawsuits alleging they caused the wildfire or contributed to its spread. 

Green said he is pushing owners of Maui’s many vacation rentals to house displaced Lahaina residents so all evacuees can move into long-term housing by the summer.

He has also proposed a “tax amnesty” to encourage vacation rental owners to rent to residents. Maui County has adopted tax incentives with the same aim.

“The lack of stable housing has obviously been a very major source of anxiety for our displaced residents, especially for our families with children,” Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said Thursday.

Bissen said housing issues have compounded the trauma of the fire for many residents and led to depression. He said mental health counseling was available at no cost.

An NBC News analysis found that at least 43 of the 100 victims on the official list of Lahaina’s dead lived in a single neighborhood — more than in any other area.

Maui County Police Department issued a preliminary after-action report hours after NBC News published its findings. The report included a map showing nearly 50 deaths in the neighborhood or on its fringes.

The report also included information about the response to the fire and mobilization efforts in its aftermath and made 32 recommendations for improvement.

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