Governor Mapp starts outreach to U.S. Congress for assistance
The Vice President of the United States is set to arrive in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Friday to witness the impact of the recent hurricanes on the Territory and the various recovery efforts that are underway.
Addressing reporters from Government House on St. Croix on Thursday, U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth E. Mapp said Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, will arrive on St. Croix with the U.S. Virgin Islands delegate in the nation’s capital, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett.
The Governor announced he has begun the process of reaching out to the U.S. Congress seeking authorization of a special community disaster loan for the U.S. Virgin Islands and additional funds to fix infrastructure, hospitals, schools, police and fire stations, government buildings as well as expanding the underground power distribution system.
The Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Jerome Adams and his team from the Department of Health and Human Services were warmly welcomed by the Governor to a working session, which examined the assembly of modular hospital units for St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.
“We believe in two to three weeks, people will be seeing portions of those units going into service throughout the Territory,” the Governor assured. Some of the Territory’s pharmacies are still relying on private courier services for the delivery of important prescription stock. Dr. Adams and his team have been asked to help secure critical care medicines for the people of the Territory.
Dr. Adams noted that the situation in the U.S. Virgin Islands is “truly unprecedented”. “It really is a situation that is going to take time, and I appreciate the Governor helping to modulate expectations,” he added.
The Surgeon General offered his assurances that the federal government is working as quickly as possible, declaring, “we are responding as fast as we are able to but we will continue to get better and better each and every day until we are positive that we’ve done right by the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands.”
Governor Mapp stated that the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) is in the process of repairing a breach to the underlying power grid that runs into Frederiksted. “It is not going to be a sprint; this is a long haul,” he noted, urging residents to manage expectations and recalling that Hurricane Maria struck the Territory just over two weeks ago.
The Territory’s leader reiterated that damaged infrastructure “cannot and will not be fixed overnight,” adding that restoring “access to food, water, medicine, medical care, that’s what’s important at this stage of the recovery.”
Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty confirmed the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix reopened Thursday, October 5, with the operation of American Airlines and JetBlue Airways commercial flights to South Florida. She added that the U.S. Customs pre-clearance process was managed in St. Croix.
Within the next seven to 10 days cruise line executives will be visiting the Territory to prepare for the return of cruise calls to the destination, the Commissioner reported. Assessments of the tourism product were ongoing, including on the island of St. John, where the Department’s team spent time on Thursday. Cruise line partners will be briefed on Friday, October 6, on what will be operational across the Territory in the weeks ahead.
Commissioner of Labor Catherine Hendry announced that two employers in the St. Thomas/St. John district have expressed interest in hiring approximately 300 local workers with skills in carpentry and general labor, while in the St. Croix district, six employers have vacancies for positions in the construction field. There are also opportunities available for administrative workers in both districts to assist insurance companies with the processing of claims. The Department of Labor is providing pre-screening for the upcoming positions and Commissioner Hendry said the vacancies will be posted in the Virgin Islands Electronic Workforce System as early as October 11.
From Friday, October 6, through Monday, October 9, the curfew in St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island will be in effect from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. and on St. Croix between the hours of 8 p.m. and 9 a.m.
Anyone experiencing psychological distress as a result of the hurricanes can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish). The helpline provides free, confidential and multilingual counseling and crisis support. The helpline can also be reached via SMS by texting talkwithus (for English) or hablanos (for Spanish) to 1-212-461-4635 .
Residents can register for disaster assistance by calling 1-800-621-3362 or visiting www.disasterassistance.gov .
The official website to donate to the U.S. Virgin Islands recovery effort is usvirecovery.org .
Other resources for information include:
Government House: informusvi.com
VITEMA Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vitema
Government House Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/GovernmentHouseUSVI/
The Department of Tourism: www.usviupdate.com
Emergency Operation Centers:
(340) 773-2244 (St. Croix)
(340) 776-2244 (St. John)
(340) 774-2244 (St. Thomas)