As we begin to emerge from the health crisis associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to see the many ways the virus has wreaked havoc on our community, our state and our nation.
Each of us has faced the challenges posed by the pandemic, whether financial, emotional or even spiritual, as many churches, temples, and synagogues have closed to ensure the safety of worshipers.
Depression, boredom, loneliness and other mental health issues were and still are a problem for many, especially for unemployed and underemployed workers who continue to struggle to earn enough to pay their bills each month. .
In many cities and towns across the United States, the number of homeless people seeking refuge in their cars, tents and makeshift shacks has increased. While many chronically homeless people suffer from mental health and addiction issues, the number of individuals and families seeking refuge is expected to increase further as moratoriums on evictions expire and rental costs remain high, even if accommodation is available.
The Maui County Emergency Rental Assistance Program (MERA) provides assistance to low-income households in Lanai, Maui, and Molokai who have been financially affected by COVID-19 and are in need of rental assistance or current, future, or overdue utility bills, or both. Internet service bills will also be taken into account.
Priority for MERA funding will be given to households with incomes below 50 percent of the Maui County area median income (less than $ 51,250 per year for a family of four) or with a household member has been unemployed for at least 90 days at the time of application. For more information and to access the online screening application, visit www.mauicounty.gov/2438 or call 873-4673.
Households can apply for rent until March 13, 2020, if necessary, and up to three months rent to come at a time. A total of 12 months of support is available for those who qualify.
I would also like to point out that the council has created a new ” long term rental “ exemption and classification, as of January 1, 2022, which aims to increase the supply of long-term rentals for residents. According to Ordinance 5159, if a rental property is “Under a contract signed to rent for 12 consecutive months or more to the same tenant, as of this valuation date, by one or more individuals” a property tax exemption will be available.
To apply for the long-term rental exemption, visit www.mauicounty.gov/1953.
The county also offers mortgage assistance, which is administered by Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO) and Family Life Center. To apply for these funds, visit www.meoinc.org.
As we move cautiously into the second half of 2021, we can malama our ‘ohana, friends and neighbors by staying connected and listening to their needs. We will heal not in isolation, but as a community.
This was especially true for my family and I as we experienced the passing of our loved ones. If it hadn’t been for the community that came together and supported us in a practical and compassionate way, we would not have been able to get by.
E malama kakou, let’s continue to take care of each other.
* Tasha Kama is chair of the Human Concerns and Parks Committee. It occupies the council seat of the Kahului area of ââresidence. “3 minutes of advice” is a column for explaining the latest news on county legislative issues. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.