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Kaua‘i County ‘scrambling’ to collect $230K in homelessness funds

LIHU‘E — The County of Kaua‘i is rushing to receive at least $230,000 in federal funds for homelessness prevention after a sudden shift by the state upended the county’s access to a grant program.

For the last decade, the state of Hawai‘i has administered Federal Emergency Solutions Grant funds to counties and nonprofit organizations providing street outreach, emergency shelter, homeless prevention and rapid rehousing assistance programs for houseless Hawai‘i residents.

However, within the last two weeks, the state informed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that it will no longer administer the funds, suggesting it to be a greater administrative burden than benefit, according to Kaua‘i County Housing Agency Director Adam Roversi.

In the wake of this sudden shift, Roversi has come to the Kaua‘i County Council in the hopes that the county itself can opt into administering the funds.

“Either Hawai‘i will not get them, or the counties can step up to receive the funds instead of the state,” he said.

Under the 2009 HEARTH Act (Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing), counties that opt into the program would evenly split the funds — in this case, $460,000. As Hawai‘i County is the only other applicable county that’s expressed intent to apply, each county would receive $230,000 to distribute.

As the state announced its intent to opt out of the program on such short notice, though, Kaua‘i has been forced to move quickly with limited information if it wishes to continue receiving the grant funds.

“We’re scrambling to set ourselves up as a potential recipient,” Roversi said.

This short-notice shift has left the county with several logistical difficulties in its attempt to administer the program.

First, ambiguities in the law itself imply that the county would only have 60 days to disperse funds after receiving the money — a difficult feat for a small county having to jump through regulatory hoops.

Second, in order to be eligible for the funds in the first place, the county is expected to have to match the federal grant, distributing an additional $230,000 out of the county’s own funds. Because of the state’s short-notice decision, the county does not currently have these funds allocated within the budget.

Third, because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was caught off guard by the state’s decision as well, the county’s deadline to actually apply for the grant is unknown.

Despite all of these complications, all county council members voted in support of attempting to administer the funds to Kaua‘i-based nonprofits.

“If we can get that $230,000 and we can match that and make it impactful, why not?” asked Council Member Addison Bulosan. “We’ve got to get this stuff out and get this to our people. It’d be a travesty for us to not even attempt to get it.”

Council Vice Chair KipuKai Kuali‘i emphasized that due to the severity of Kaua‘i’s housing crisis, the county should work to collect any and all potential funds to alleviate the issue.

“We need to be partnering with everyone we can,” he said. “Government entities — state, county, feds — and also local nonprofits, because we hear the very painful, horrifying stories of how individuals and many Native Hawaiians are suffering. And that should not be in our own homeland.”

While Council Chair Mel Rapozo spoke positively about the possibility of securing funds for homelessness programs, he expressed disdain over the county’s lack of planning for short-notice funding opportunities.

“We’ve got to set up our priorities so that when we have these opportunities, we can move,” he said.

Still, he was ultimately optimistic that these funds, if secured, could benefit Hawai‘i’s most vulnerable populations.

“How can we step up?” he said. “With funds like this, we can.”


Jackson Healy, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-4966 or
Source: The Garden Island

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