CNHA releases new Maui recovery statistics

New data released by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement on Thursday illustrates the continued recovery status and community needs of families affected by the Aug. 8 wildfires that killed 101 and displaced thousands.

“This data provides transparency for the public and service providers regarding the progress of families nearly 10 months post-fire, ” CNHA CEO Kuhio Lewis said in a news release. “While some strides have been made, it’s evident that significant work remains to restore normalcy to Maui. Our aim is for this report to enhance the effectiveness of agencies and individuals in serving Maui’s community.”

Data was collected through the Alaska Airlines Maui Care Flights program, which will offer wildfire survivors over 3, 000 round-trip flights to the mainland beginning July through December 2025. To be eligible for the program, families were required to complete a survey describing their housing situation, economic status and current needs.

According to CNHA, most responses were gathered by the end of May, with a majority being from households with children and multigenerational families—indicative of the flight program’s prioritization criteria. The data came from 1, 471 applications to the flight program, representing 1, 219 adults and 771 children.

“Families are the most vulnerable because they have people that are dependent on them, so it was important for us to look at where the families are in the equation, ” Lewis told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “How are they being supported, versus individuals ?”

When asked about current needs, 46 % of responding families described financial assistance as “urgently or very needed, ” with an additional 28 % describing it as “moderately needed.” The findings align with a 25 % drop in the median annual household income from prefire incomes, and data showing almost one in four adults in these households are either working part-time or unemployed.

Full-time employment rose to 58 %, up from 38.2 % in CNHA’s previous update from earlier this year. The current median annual income for responding families was between $36, 000 and $41, 999, down from $48, 000 to $53, 999 annually.

Additionally, at least 51 % of the adults surveyed work in the visitor industry—a statistic Lewis said was interesting in understanding how tourism will affect these families moving forward.

“Our dependence on keeping tourism alive is pretty prevalent, is what this study is showing, ” Lewis said. “Tourism’s ability to recover is going to determine how stable these families are going to be in the long run.”

Housing was also a pressing need for responding families, with one-third of families describing housing as “urgently or very needed, ” and an additional 27 % describing it as “moderately needed.” As of the end of May, 75 % of families were living in temporary housing and the remaining 25 % in current housing. Over half of the families living in temporary housing situations had resided at their current home for four months or less.

When asked where they hope to be living in a year, approximately 72 % of families said they hope to be living in West Maui—aligning with the fact that almost three-fourths of the adults surveyed work in West Maui. Six percent expect that they will have left Maui for another island or the mainland.

A little over one-fourth of families also described food as “urgently or very needed, ” and an additional 27 % described it as “moderately needed.”

While this isn’t the first set of data that CNHA has made publicly available, the data accumulated through this survey encompasses areas that were previously confidential, such as monthly incomes and employment status. Lewis said that this data, which is both qualitative and the most recent data available, can be used to help organizations tailor their services to what is most needed.

“The intent of collecting this data and making it publicly available was that a lot of people are trying to provide support to Maui, and it’s like, ‘Is that the type of support that they need ?’” Lewis said. “This helps service providers hit the mark.”

Lewis said that CNHA is currently housing over 900 Lahaina residents through its various programs, which were designed based on Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross data. In sharing CNHA-collected information for the first time with the public and other service providers, Lewis said that he hopes new programs can be developed to best help the Maui community.

“I think our role is to help empower the Maui community to help support themselves in the long term, ” Lewis said. “Being the data aggregator is probably an important part of the next step for us. How do we share this responsibility ?”

Lewis said that while he wishes more progress was being made faster in delivering aid to wildfire survivors, the data shows that “at least we know we’re going in the right direction.”

“Given that we live and breathe recovery for Maui at this point, it does validate that things are shifting in the right direction, that there’s more stability that’s coming, that there’s more people in permanent housing, ” Lewis said. “I think it’s comforting in that way.”

The full report can be viewed on CNHA’s online Maui Data Hub.