Op-ed commentary submitted by:
Yuki Lei K. Sugimura, member of Maui County, Upcountry, Chair of the Infrastructure and Transportation Committee
Thursday, September 1st, 2021
Since the Hawaii eviction moratorium expired on August 6, the Centers for Disease Control issued a notice that their August 3 eviction order would continue to apply to all counties across the state. But just two days ago, on August 26, the US Supreme Court ruled that the CDC had no authority to issue such an order without direct approval from Congress.
Although the order was immediately canceled, a considerable amount of help and support is still available. The waiver of the CDC order will not affect the rental, mortgage, and utility facilitation funds already received from the County of Maui. The county has raised $ 40 million to help residents in need of rental and mortgage assistance due to COVID-19.
So far, only 645 households have received money to avoid evictions and potential homelessness, leaving about $ 35 million available.
I held a round table on the eviction moratorium on August 13th to help residents understand the different types of support available to both landlords and tenants. For a recording of the discussion and more information, see mauicounty.us/sugimura.
“People have experienced real hardship in the past year and a half,” said Lori Tsuhako, director of housing and human affairs, at the round table. “Help is there – please use it.”
For residents in need of help, there has been rent allowance and future rent since March 31, 2020. Even if there are no longer any federal or federal eviction moratoriums, mediation prior to a judicial eviction suit is mandatory under state law.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed House Bill 1376 to help both landlords and tenants. This law, introduced by Rep. Troy Hashimoto, makes mediation a temporary requirement before an eviction request is made. The law extends the notice period for a rental agreement from 5 days to 15 days in order to enable mediation.
In addition, landlords must send a copy of a termination of a lease to an exchange that offers free landlord-tenant mediation at the same time as the notification to the tenant. The mediation center then arranges an appointment for both parties, whereby the mediation should be completed within 30 days of receipt of the notification.
Maui Mediation Services encourages landlords and tenants to seek their assistance in arranging, applying for rental assistance, and related services. You can also contact Maui Economic Opportunity or Catholic Charities Hawai’i directly and they will be happy to guide you through the application process.
Rental Assistance Funding is available to Maui County residents who qualify by September 30th. However, you need to be proactive in finding these funds and take the necessary steps to access help. If these funds are not used by the deadline, they will be redeployed across the country.
Although the Hawaiian Electric Company ended their interruption moratorium on May 31, they continue to work with customers to implement payment arrangements to ensure their service is not interrupted. They encourage their customers to come back when they have difficulty and they will do their best to work with you.
Here is a list of resources available to Maui County’s residents with a rental, mortgage, or utility needs:
- Legal Aid Society of Hawaii Maui Branch, 808-244-3731, legalaidhawaii.org
- Catholic Charities Hawaii, 808-873-4673, catholiccharitieshawaii.org/housinghelp/ (Rent, mortgage and pension relief)
- Maui Economic Opportunity, AID Program, 808-249-2970, meoinc.org
- Hawaiian Electric Company, 808-871-7777 (Maui) or 808-871-8461 (Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi), hawaiianelectric.com/hawaiian-electrics-response-to-covid-19/covid-19
- Maui County Housing and Human Issues, mauicounty.gov/mauirenthelp
- Maui Mediation Services, 808-344-4255, [email protected] or mauimediation.org
I encourage community members to share this information with friends and family. If you are in need, ask for help. For more information, contact my office at 808-270-7939 or call me directly at 808-870-8047.
***** The views expressed in Op-Ed plays are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions, guidelines, or positions of Maui Now. *****