U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Power restoration in the U.S. Virgin Islands is ramping up with the arrival of more linemen in the Territory.

Speaking to reporters at Government House, St. Croix on Friday, Governor Kenneth E. Mapp announced that 60 linemen began orientation on St. Thomas on Friday to assist the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) with repairing and installing power lines. An additional 100 restoration professionals will arrive on St. Croix on Saturday, and 50 more will be in St. Thomas on Sunday.

By the end of the month, more than 500 linemen will be working on rebuilding the U.S. Virgin Islands’ power distribution system. The goal is to have power restored to more than 90 percent of the homes and businesses on all four Virgin Islands before Christmas.

Governor Mapp shared that he had requested that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ work in the Territory be expanded to include a complete assessment of the entire power generation system to include the cost of burying lines. “We are going to work towards a more resilient power production and distribution system,” he stated.

The Governor also announced that Saturday, November 11, is the official date on which the U.S. Virgin Islands will reopen for cruise traffic, with St. Croix expecting to receive at least 90 calls for the cruise season, more than double the number of calls scheduled before Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the Territory. St. Thomas will also see an increase in scheduled visits; details will be announced next week. Meetings with the business community will be scheduled to ensure adequate preparations are made before visitors arrive.

Governor Mapp disclosed that homes that have previously been disqualified for receiving heavy-duty tarpaulins under the Blue Roof program – due to insufficient roof frames – will now be able to receive assistance from contractors working with the Department of Public Works. Under the new arrangement, contractors will be able to install additional frames to support heavy tarpaulins. Virgin Islanders can apply for aid at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Recovery Centers. “The plan is to make sure homes are properly constructed and made habitable and safe,” he said.

National Guard Adjutant General Deborah Howell reported that Thursday, October 12, was the last day of operation for the Points of Distribution. Roll-out of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) will be postponed several weeks until power has been restored to more residences in the Territory, helping people to keep perishable food items from spoiling.

Hurricane shelters will close next week to allow the Department of Education full use of the school buildings. Governor Mapp stressed that those being sheltered in school buildings will be relocated or assisted in returning to their homes when possible.

The Governor announced that schools on St. Croix are expected to open on Monday, October 23, one week later than originally planned. Some schools in St. Croix will be merged. Commissioner of Education Dr. Sharon McCollum will give a detailed report early next week about these and other plans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has officially declared the U.S. Virgin Islands a disaster area. The declaration opens the door for farmers to receive special assistance and support such as loans and access to disaster assistance programs.

Farmers in eligible areas are given eight months from the disaster designation to submit their emergency loan requests. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said each application would be considered in light of the extent of lost production and the capacity of the farmer to repay the loan.

Commissioner of Health Dr. Michelle Davis announced that insulin, as well as flu and tetanus vaccines, will be available to the public on Wednesday, October 18, at Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital in St. Croix from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Referring to the mid-November deadline for applying for individual disaster assistance from FEMA, Governor Mapp stated he will be requesting a 60-day extension due to the fact that less than 25 percent of the Territory’s residents have access to power, and internet connectivity is not widely available, making it difficult for people to apply.

Governor Mapp will visit St. John on Tuesday, October 17, for an in-depth visit to assess the recovery progress and to speak with residents living on the island.

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 talk with us (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 isusvirecovery.org .

Other resources for information include:

Government House: informusvi.com
VITEMA: vialert.gov
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)