Governor Kenneth Mapp (third from right) met with FEMA Administrator William “Brock” Long (second from right) on Tuesday to discuss additional federal assistance to repair homes and assist renters in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

 

ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Kenneth E. Mapp told Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator William “Brock” Long Tuesday that the Territory requires more assistance in repairing homes and helping renters.

 

Many Virgin Islanders live in rental units or family-owned apartments, rendering the occupants ineligible for some forms of assistance and FEMA needs to adapt some of its policies to better assist both renters and landlords, the Governor said. More options for temporary housing must also be identified.

 

The Governor said the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) program, which allows for up to $25,000 for temporary repairs so residents can shelter in place, must be better integrated with the program that subsidizes permanent repairs for up to $75,000. He said the money and time would be better spent on rebuilding for the long haul as opposed to doing a quick fix designed to last only a few months.

 

“As is, it restrains the ability to help the community,” the Governor said. “We need to connect the dollars.”

 

Governor Mapp asked what more FEMA could do to assist the Territory in repairing the roads ravaged by the recent hurricanes. Administrator Long pledged to look into it as current policy limits FEMA to debris removal on streets designated as federal highways.

 

The Governor continues to underscore that FEMA ought to place greater emphasis on long-term resiliency in its response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

 

“Each disaster is an opportunity to become more resilient,” Governor Mapp said. “The key for the community is what are we going to do to mitigate this level of destruction going forward.”

 

Administrator Long, who leads FEMA nationwide, agreed that more emphasis must be placed on hardening the infrastructure of communities. He asked the Governor to place his concerns in an official letter in the “spirit of improving policy”.

 

“What you are talking about makes sense,” Administrator Long said.

 

He added that more than 25 million Americans had been impacted by disasters over the past few months and that FEMA was working hard to help prepare communities to handle future emergencies, to include training local residents through its temporary jobs program.

 

“We are building you a network of emergency managers here on the island,” Administrator Long said.

 

The Governor thanked the Administrator for returning to the Territory and said that he deeply appreciated the level of support the Virgin Islands had received thus far.

Administrator Long said he would continue to do all he could to assist the Virgin Islands both on the ground and in Washington, D.C.

 

“We are ‘United in Hope’ with you,” he said, referring to the Territory’s official motto.