Maui wildfire survivor Mike Cicchino called out President Joe Biden and his administration during a recent interview, saying that Lahaina residents like himself were “not being treated like” American citizens as they try to rebuild their lives with little help from the government.
Cicchino spoke with “NewsNation Prime” host Natasha Zouves on Sunday, recounting the moment he and his wife Andreza had run into the ocean as flames engulfed the historic village — and the following three hours that they spent just trying to keep their heads above water.
“Being on fire, not knowing where land is, at points, the currents pulling us out where we can’t touch the ground,” Cicchino recalled. “At times, I remember just telling her to make sure that she saves herself. ‘Don’t worry. If I start drowning out here, you save yourself.’ It’s the most terrifying experience of our life.”
By the time Cicchino and his wife were able to return to shore, both their home and business were gone — and thus far, all the federal government has offered them and others affected by the wildfires is a one-time payment of $700 per household. Cicchino said he has not yet seen that payment.
“We are the 50th state here and we’re not being treated like we’re U.S. citizens. We feel like we just got out of a fight for our life. Now, we’re back in another fight for our life to find a home, to find a place to rest our head at night,” he continued. “We’re not getting any help from (the) federal government so far.”
“We never received the $700, which I mean wouldn’t go very far here in Hawaii. We’re mostly getting help from private organizations and nonprofits,” he said. “I can’t speak for everybody, but we feel like we’re not getting any help out here at least from the federal government. They are helping, from what I understand, down on the ground to look for bodies, to clear out rubble, those types of things. But as far as the people that were displaced, financially they’ve been no help.”
President Biden has been widely criticized for his overall response to the deadly fires, which have thus far claimed 115 lives while hundreds remain missing. While he was praised for declaring a state of emergency early on, he later took heat for offering “no comment” to questions about the rising death toll and for waiting nearly two weeks to visit the devastated island.
Biden’s eventual trip to survey the damage — a brief day trip bookended by vacation days in Lake Tahoe — got him into even more trouble when he compared the massive, deadly blaze to a small kitchen fire some years earlier in his Delaware home.