On Thursday, Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson announced their campaign, The People’s Fund of Maui. This fund plans to send direct aid to the victims of the Maui wildfires.
The launch of this recovery initiative occurred about three weeks after wildfires shocked residents and blazed through the towns of Lahaina and Kula, Maui. Unaware of the approaching devastation, many locals lost their homes, belongings, loved ones and even their own lives. No disaster alarms were sounded, giving people little to no time to escape.
As the focus in Maui now is centered on “rebuilding,” many locals continue to question what that will look like for them as they’ve been displaced from their homes and are already witnessing money-hungry developers salivating at new land “opportunity.” As many disparaged home owners continue to be let down by state and federal officials with insufficient aid and overall treatment, public figures seem to be stepping in.
“We were texting when this tragedy took place and the idea was, what can we do?” The Rock said while being interviewed about the fund along with Winfrey. “You want to take care of the greatest need of the people, and that’s giving them money.”
Winfrey and Johnson kicked off the campaign with $10 million of their own money, and are now asking others to consider contributing what they can.
The People’s Fund of Maui will give adults who lost their primary residence in Maui to the fires monthly non-taxable payments of $1,200. In order to qualify for eligibility, affected Maui residents must show proof of their loss of residency or inhabitable conditions. This fund is available to both homeowners and renters, but does not include property owners not living in the buildings.
In order to prove residency, an applicant must provide a government identification card and a utility bill in their name.
The monthly payments are planned to continue as long as there is a need for aid and available funds.
Winfrey and Johnson both have strong ties in Maui that compelled them to start The People’s Fund of Maui. Winfrey herself has been a part-time resident of Maui for about 15 years, owning several properties. The Rock spent a significant amount of his childhood growing up in Hawaii with family, and is of Samoan descent.
Following the fires, Johnson had posted a video to his Instagram highlighting his condolences and desire to help.
“Everything that I’ve seen transpire over these past couple of days, everything that continues to transpire hour by hour, minute by minute, it’s all heartbreaking,” he said.
Winfrey was spotted helping at shelters in Maui the day the disaster took place. She was on the ground providing help before the president and even the governor of Hawaii.
Still, Winfrey and Johnson have faced backlash for starting the fund. Criticism includes that the million and billionaires shouldn’t be asking working class citizens to donate their money. People have also formulated conspiracies against the fund and Winfrey, claiming she purchased a significant amount of land in Maui before the fires.
The comments haven’t halted the two from pursuing their initiative however. Others who are recognizing their efforts in a better light are bringing their perspectives to the table like this commentator below.
Do you think The People’s Fund of Maui is a genuine and considerate initiative for Maui locals or a disingenuous ploy like some critics believe? Comment your thoughts below!