East Hawaii News

OHA Expands Emergency Financial Assistance Program

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The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is beefing up its emergency assistance program for Native Hawaiians.

OHA has expanded its Ka Wailele Emergency Financial Assistance Program to include relief for necessities such as car repairs, funeral expenses and out-of-pocket medical expenses in addition to mortgage, rental and utility support. Maximum awards will also be increased from $1,500 to $2,000.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted our people and it is our hope that this emergency financial assistance from OHA can help ease some of the stress that our Native Hawaiian ‘ohana have experienced,” said OHA CEO/Ka Pouhana Dr. Sylvia Hussey.

Native Hawaiians who are at least 18 years old and in financial hardship should review program requirements and apply. No income requirements pertain, but Native Hawaiians are limited in receiving OHA emergency financial assistance to one grant every two years.

Those needing assistance can apply by clicking here or visiting the Ka Wailele program website. Anyone without internet access or a computer is encouraged to call Hawaiʻi Community Lending at 808-587-7656 to request a paper application or complete an application via telephone.


In-person assistance also will be available at Financial Opportunity Centers and remote offices statewide.

Assistance with car registration costs will be ineligible, with assistance limited to vehicle repairs and maintenance only. Funeral costs are limited to mortuary costs — casket, embalming, cremation and funeral service — as well as help with food and flower arrangement costs.

Hawaiʻi Community Lending will process applications, and payments will be made directly to landlords, mortgage lenders, utility providers, car repair shops, medical providers or funeral homes. Approved applicants will also have access to financial counseling, additional grants or affordable loans and career coaching through Financial Opportunity Centers operated by Hawaiʻi Community Lending’s parent corporation, Hawaiian Community Assets.

In June 2021, OHA announced it was making more than $1 million available to implement an emergency financial assistance program for Native Hawaiians. The Ka Wailele program is being administered by Hawaiʻi Community Lending, a nonprofit community development financial institution that specializes in providing loans to local residents with a focus on Native Hawaiians, who cannot qualify at mainstream banks and credit unions.


As the administrator of the program, Hawaiʻi Community Lending conducted community listening sessions to further identity financial needs of Native Hawaiians. One such meeting was with the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Hawaiʻi COVID-19 Response, Recovery and Resilience team coordinated by Papa Ola Lōkahi.

Anecdotal evidence confirmed that living expenses were increasing and transportation, funeral and medical expenses, in particular, were becoming out of reach for some Native Hawaiians throughout the state.

“We confirmed with data that applicants needed assistance with transportation to travel to work and school. Unfortunately, at the same time, family deaths and medical expenses directly or indirectly related to COVID-19 were becoming increasingly apparent as a need,” said Hawaiʻi Community Lending Executive Director Jeff Gilbreath.

To address these growing financial needs, Hawaiʻi Community Lending and OHA worked collaboratively to expand the dollar amount of program grants and program uses.


To qualify for Ka Wailele grants, applicants must:

  • Be Native Hawaiian, residing in Hawaiʻi.
  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Be in financial hardship.
  • Have documents to prove past due rent, mortgage, utilities, rental deposit, car repairs, funeral or medical expenses.

Applicants will be required to submit the following documents with their application to be considered for Ka Wailele grants:

  • Proof of age and Hawaiʻi residency.
  • Copy of a picture ID.
  • Native Hawaiian verification through one of the following: copy of birth certificate, OHA Hawaiian Registry card, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands lease or Kamehameha Schools Hoʻoulu registry.
  • Proof of financial hardship through one of the following: unemployment or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance approval letter, letter from employer verifying you have been laid off or lost hours at work, pay stubs prior to loss of income and current pay stubs or business bank statements prior to loss of income and current income (if self-employed).
  • Housing verification through one of the following: complete, signed, dated rental lease or mortgage statement.
  • Proof of assistance needed from one of the following: past due rent or eviction notice with amount owed; past due utility or disconnection notice with amount owed or bill from utility service (i.e., water delivery); mortgage statement with past due amount; estimate for car repairs within 30 days of application and proof of ownership; funeral cost estimate from third-party vendor within six months of application, death certificate or obituary notice indicating death within six months of application or proof of relationship to deceased; or medical bill within three months of application that indicates out-of-pocket expense or estimate for procedure/treatment scheduled to occur within one month of application or reasonable time period.

Learn more about the expanded financial assistance by clicking here.

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