Hurricane recovery briefings resume

Registration for the Emergency Home Repair VI Project, formerly known as the STEP program, opens Monday, U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth E. Mapp announced Wednesday during a news conference.

“That program is expected to make available an average of $25,000 dollars to over 12,000 homeowners in the Virgin Islands,” he said.

The Governor reported that he and Lieutenant Governor Osbert E. Potter met earlier that day to update the Senators of the 32nd Legislature on the status of the Territory’s recovery. Governor Mapp stated he was thankful for to Senate President Myron D. Jackson for setting up this meeting, so he could address their concerns and update them about the disaster assistance programs available to Virgin Islanders.

To qualify for the Emergency Home Repair VI Project, homeowners need to have previously registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), own their own home, prove it is their primary residence and have suffered hurricane damage. The VI Housing Finance Authority and AECOM, the company who will manage the project, are going to make the approximately 1,000 homeowners who did not qualify for the Blue Roof Program, the first in line for emergency repairs. Most of these homes were too severely damaged to be covered with tarps.

Damage to walls, windows, cisterns, power supply, portable water lines are among the repairs that may be covered under the Emergency Home Repair Project. More than 2,500 workers will be needed to complete these repairs and job fairs will be conducted to fill these positions, Governor Mapp said.

The Governor noted this program differs from the Permanent Housing Repair Program. Many Virgin Islanders were not approved for that program because some homeowners had not settled with their insurance companies and could not yet provide that information. However, Governor Mapp stated that homeowners have up to one year to be able to settle with their insurance companies and bring the necessary information to facilitators of the Permanent Repair Program for review and approval.

Governor Mapp also announced he would resume regular news briefings to keep everyone in the U.S. Virgin Islands informed about the various programs and resources available to them as they recover from September’s hurricanes.

Governor Mapp emphasized that he did not want the people of the Virgin Islands to depend on radio talk shows or rumors to get information and suggested that the talk show hosts invite program leaders, FEMA representatives and local government department heads to address key questions and provide details to ensure accuracy.

FEMA Region II Coordinating Officer William (Bill) Vogel reported Wednesday that the agency still has 534 federal responders in the U.S. Virgin Islands, adding, “we plan to be here throughout the recovery and we will leave when the Territory decides that we have done our job.”

The Governor also announced that the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) is looking to fill various positions, including those of Disaster Program Account Supervisors, Program Account Specialist, Program Project Supervisors and Emergency Management Managers on all islands. Resumes can be submitted to erika.callwood@vitema.vi.gov.

Health Commissioner Dr. Michelle Davis reported her department expects critical patients can begin to return to the U.S. Virgin Islands in the early summer, when the installation of the modular hospital replacement units is anticipated to be completed.