ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth E. Mapp had a productive week meeting with lawmakers and senior government leaders in the nation’s capital prior to the Thanksgiving break.

Addressing reporters at Government House on St. Croix, Governor Mapp reported on meetings of the Virgin Islands delegation with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and other members of President Donald J. Trump’s Cabinet.

“I was … very happy to be able to demonstrate to the members of Congress that we take the recovery as our primary responsibility,” said the Governor. “We appreciate (and) welcome the support of our federal partners,” he said, adding “… at the end of the day, the recovery for the U.S. Virgin Islands is the responsibility of Virgin Islanders and this is why my Government is so much in front of the recovery process.”

In his meeting with Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney, Governor Mapp discussed the condition of the Territory’s schools and hospitals. He told Director Mulvaney that the Virgin Islands did not want 250-bed hospitals, but needed smaller ones that were “smarter and hardened.” He said the government was not trying to rebuild or fix the nine condemned schools, as they only need six to be replaced. Director Mulvaney appreciated the sensible approach with which the Virgin Islands was addressing its recovery, the Governor reported.

The Territory’s Chief Executive thanked Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett for the work she has been doing to represent the needs of Virgin Islanders. “I want to commend our delegate for the work that she is continuing to do and (for) providing … leadership in Washington on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands. I think this is going to help us really advance the ball to get the resources and the support that we need to reconstruct America’s paradise here in the Caribbean.”

Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty announced that Delta Air Lines will provide daily service from Atlanta to St. Croix from December 21, 2017 through January 8, 2018. Afterwards, the service will operate three to four days a week through the end of March 2018. In addition, American Airlines will resume weekly Saturday flights between Charlotte and St. Croix from December 16, 2017 through August next year.

Commissioner Nicholson-Doty met with members of St. Croix’s private sector on Monday to discuss the development of a post-hurricane tourism marketing strategy; on Tuesday, she will meet with members of the private sector in the St. Thomas-St. John district. Commissioner Nicholson-Doty noted that the marketing strategy is needed because “the Virgin Islands is still nice.”

Governor Mapp told members of Congress that nine weeks after two hurricanes, 70 percent of the community did not have power. “(They) thought that was just a horrible result and that there had to be some way to fix that.” The Governor said one way to do that is by mitigating and strengthening the system by putting a great deal of it underground.

Governor Mapp reiterated his expectation that 90 percent of the Territory will be energized by Christmas, adding that he will continue to work with Julio Rhymer, Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA), to achieve that goal. “I am confident that we are actually going to be able to do that,” he said.

Governor Mapp remains committed to improving the pace of debris removal, as this continues to be one of the Territory’s most pressing elements of recovery.

On December 3, the Governor will host a delegation from Congress in St. Croix, who will tour the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center to get a firsthand view of the damage.

“Keep on pushing, keep on having faith. We are going to continue to work hard to make sure that what needs to be done will be done, and will be done in a timely and efficient manner,” the Governor encouraged.