The duo launched the People’s Fund of Maui this week and jointly announced Thursday on Instagram that it will put “money directly in the pockets of those who were affected by the recent wildfires.” They kicked things off themselves with a $10 million donation.
“As we have seen firsthand, the impacts of these wildfires have been devastating, and we’re here to ensure with 100% guarantee that your donations will go directly into the hands of Lahaina residents,” the social media post explained.
“Every adult resident who lives in the affected area and was displaced by the wildfires in Lahaina and Kula is eligible to receive $1200 per month to help them through this period of recovery,” it continued. “All you have to do is go to PeoplesFundofMaui.org to apply.”
The fires reportedly began after midnight on Aug. 8 and were fueled by strong winds that reportedly pushed the flames along. Up to 1,100 people are still missing in Lahaina, a town of 13,000, which continues to be searched for survivors and human remains.
“As people around the world watched the catastrophic loss and devastation caused by the Maui wildfires, they also witnessed the great spirit and resilience of our Polynesian culture and the tremendous strength of the people of Maui,” said Johnson in a release, per People.
Johnson spent part of his childhood in Hawaii and urged the people of Maui to “stay together” earlier this month. Winfrey, whose own house near Lahaina was spared from the inferno, was apparently inspired to donate help with donations by Dolly Parton.
“The main thing I’ve been hearing is their concern about how to move forward under the immense financial burden … I read this article that Dolly Parton had given money in her community, and I said, ‘I think this is the answer,’” said Winfrey in Thursday’s news release.
Maui County sued Hawaiian Electric Company last week for alleged negligence and failing to shut down power despite dangerously dry conditions and strong winds before the fires. According to the company’s website, it “serves 95 percent of Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents.”
“Maui County stands alongside the people and communities of Lāhainā and Kula to recover public resource damages and rebuild after these devastating utility-caused fires,” the county assured its residents in an announcement of the lawsuit on Aug. 24.
President Joe Biden recently traveled to Hawaii and vowed to stand by Maui “for as long as it takes” to rebuild and recover. Several locals and House Republicans criticized the president for his slow response and continued focus on the Ukraine war.
Meanwhile, Johnson thanked everyone for their help, prayers and resources in Thursday’s news release. He lauded the “esteemed community leaders” for “offering their guidance” with the People’s Fund and reminded locals of their history:
“Even in the most difficult of times, the people of Maui come together, and we rise — that’s what makes us stronger.”