U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (R) look on as President Joe Biden speaks concerning the government response and recovery efforts in Maui, Hawaii, and the continuing response on Hurricane Idalia, within the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., Aug. 30, 2023.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — The federal government will provide $95 million to shore up Hawaii’s electric grid within the wake of deadly wildfires, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday.
The cash “means investments to make certain electricity can proceed to succeed in homes, hospitals and water stations, even during intense storms,” Biden said at a White House event on disaster recovery.
The funding can even enable the Pacific island state to bury more power lines, replace old electrical poles and clear overgrown brush around them, said Biden.
The news comes as Hawaii’s major electric utility, Hawaiian Electric, is facing a dozen lawsuits alleging that the corporate’s practices were partly chargeable for the deadly fires, a claim the utility denies.
The fires on Maui earlier this month were the deadliest U.S. wildfires in over a century, killing at the very least 115 individuals with a whole bunch more still missing. The historic town of Lahaina was destroyed, and Moody’s estimates the wildfires were chargeable for as much as $6 billion in economic losses.
Fitch, Moody’s and S&P all recently downgraded Hawaiian Electric’s credit standing to junk status, with Fitch warning that the corporate could face greater than $3.8 billion in potential liability for the Maui wildfires.
Speaking on the White House, Biden sought to reassure residents of Maui that the federal government can be with them throughout the recovery process, noting that $400 million in federal funds had been allocated already to assist pay for debris removal on the island.
Biden visited Hawaii with first lady Jill Biden last week to view the damage and meet with survivors.
“We saw the magnitude of the loss,” Biden said of his recent trip, “and we’re doing the whole lot we are able to to maneuver heaven and earth to assist get better and return to your lives.”
Biden spoke as Hurricane Idalia roared through Florida and into southern Georgia. Idalia made landfall Wednesday morning as a Category 3 storm but has since weakened to a Category 1 storm. As of Wednesday afternoon, at the very least two people had died and a whole bunch of hundreds more were left without power.
Biden spoke to the governors of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, and pledged the federal government’s support for recovery efforts, the White House said.