Oprah and The Rock Start Maui Fund

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Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson “The Rock” have announced this morning The People’s Fund of Maui with hopes of raising money to put directly into the hands of those who lost homes in the Lahaina fires.  With an initial donation of 10 million dollars, they want to put $1,200 per month tax-free into each of our displaced Maui resident’s hands.

“We’ve been meeting with community leaders, our Kūpuna, for the past couple of weeks,” says Oprah Winfrey, “and just trying to figure out what we can do.”

Oprah and Dwayne Johnson Maui


People’s Fund of Maui

The People’s Fund of Maui, not to be confused with the existing Hawaii People’s Fund, aims to help the displaced directly with living expenses as they get back on their feet. If you are 18 or over, apply ASAP to be eligible.  You’ll have to have lost your primary residence in Kula or Lahaina due to the recent Maui fires. You’ll receive funds each month for as long as there are enough continued funds from the public and there is a continued need. Apply online or call (808) 427-7777. You can also apply in person at the Westin Maui in Ka’anapali at 2365 Ka’anapali Parkway from September 8th-11th from 8am-6pm.

Dwayne Johnson explains “In this time of need, you want to take care of the greatest need of the people and that’s giving them money.”

People's Fund of Maui

The fund extends to primary residents who are homeowners or renters who have been displaced by the fires Upcountry or on the West side of Maui. You’ll have to prove residency of your lost or uninhabitable home with a government-issued ID or utility bill. The funds are meant to be used for living expenses, funeral expenses, repair of residence, rent, and replacement of lost items due to fire.

Oprah Winfrey creates Maui fund

“Oprah lives here in Maui.  I was raised in these islands.  My family are buried in these islands. …It’s going to take a long time to rebuild.  It’ll probably get a little worse before it gets better, but we’re here doing what we can do,” The Rock shared.

Jeff Bezos Starts $100 Million Fund

My personal thoughts: When Jeff Bezos gave $100 million, my first thought was a mix of gratitude and a wish that they had done it anonymously.  It’s going to cost $6+ billion to take care of our displaced people, help the economy, and rebuild Lahaina.  My first thought was that the big news would discourage others from donating, as they might think it’s all taken care of by Bezos.  

When hearing about the initial $10 million from Winfrey and Johnson, I wondered why they started with such a low amount (given their combined vast wealth.) Perhaps they did this to encourage everyone to donate, knowing that it’ll take more than 10 million.  Maybe they’ll donate a bunch more.  Maybe they already have and are keeping it quiet.  We don’t know, and time will tell what happens with this fund. 

Oprah has come under fire of criticism

Oprah’s first outreach came at the War Memorial Stadium shelter where she and a camera crew tried to gain entry.  As there was a no-media policy, she entered alone handing out pillows and supplies. Being a long-time, part-time resident of Maui, we’ve been waiting to hear how she would contribute.  The billionaire has owned large swaths of Maui for many years and continues to bid for more neighboring land.  She even owns a private road from Kula, Upcountry, Maui down to South Maui Wailea/Makena area.  

We’re grateful for this additional financial help, and we hope 100% of the funds truly go directly into the hands of Maui fire survivors.  We know they will immediately get flack for it not being a large enough initial donation considering she is a billionaire, and his net worth is approaching it (if not already there). It’s reported that Oprah is worth $2.5 billion and owns over 2,000 acres on Maui. Regardless, these are positive steps forward and we’re grateful (please see my personal notes above under Jeff Bezos). Personally, I believe anyone helping Maui shouldn’t be vilified. That being said, we’ll see a backlash and a bunch of continued conspiracy theories swirling around…