US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association

FEMA Approves Permanent Housing Construction for U.S. Virgin Islands

Since Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the U.S. Virgin Islands in September, more than $11.2 million in federal and territorial recovery grants has been disbursed to eligible homeowners and renters for temporary housing assistance and other needs.

With more than half of the estimated number of housing inspections now complete across the territory, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in partnership with the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency and the governor’s office, has approved permanent housing construction for eligible survivors who have sustained at least $17,000 in FEMA verified loss, but whose home was not destroyed by the hurricanes.

Survivors who participate in PHC will be provided assistance in the form of direct repairs to their pre-disaster primary residence in lieu of financial assistance from FEMA. FEMA will contact these survivors via phone calls, texts and emails with details.

Before an applicant is approved for PHC, FEMA will ensure that repairs are necessary to make the home, safe, sanitary and functional. The estimated labor and repairs to the home must not exceed $75,000. Repair costs must be reasonable and will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

FEMA also is making repair grants available to those homeowners with moderate damages, as these survivors may choose to quickly make repairs and move forward with their recovery.

“Recovery is never an easy process, but for a territory that spans several islands, the challenges are multiplied,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer William Vogel. “We will work with homeowners and help them weigh their options as they make some decisions about their path forward.”

FEMA encourages Virgin Islanders who have registered with FEMA and have had a housing inspection to call FEMA at 800-621-3362 or stop by any Disaster Recovery Center to learn more about their housing assistance options.

Survivors have until the Dec. 18 deadline to register with FEMA for assistance. Survivors may register at or by calling 800-621-3362. Individuals who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY should call 800-462-7585 directly. Those who use 711 or Video Relay Service may call 800-621-3362.

These toll-free telephone numbers operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (local time) seven days a week. Operators are standing by to assist survivors in multiple languages.

A Sign of Recovery: Power Returning to U.S. Virgin Islands

Virgin Islanders are beginning to see the light. As power returns to neighborhoods throughout the territory, street and traffic lights are becoming a familiar sight again, with more and more businesses and homes illuminated after dark.

After Hurricanes Irma and Maria damaged almost 90 percent of the territory’s electrical grid in September, Virgin Islanders have spent weeks in the dark. As of Nov. 21, more than a third of customers have functioning power – and the territory is making headway in reaching its goal of restoring electricity to 90 percent of customers with functioning meters by the end of the year.

Boosting the emergency power restoration effort is more than $76 million in grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance program. As a result of the major disaster declarations for the U.S. Virgin Islands, FEMA is funding 100 percent of the costs of such emergency work for 180 days from the declaration dates – until March 4, 2018 for Hurricane Irma, and March 15, 2018 for Hurricane Maria.

The funds are helping the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority cover the cost of bringing about 700 linemen from the mainland, as well as shipping in more than 10,000 poles (including many that can withstand 200 mph winds), hundreds of trucks and thousands of miles of wire.

“FEMA is funding the territory’s power restoration work in such a big way because electricity drives nearly every aspect of the recovery effort for survivors, for businesses and for communities,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer William Vogel. “Our territorial partners are working nonstop to light up the islands again, and we’re pleased to support them in their efforts.”

Behind the scenes of the power restoration effort is a joint territorial/federal task force dedicated to developing strategies and courses of action for restoring power. Comprised of WAPA, the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the task force is focused on finding best methods of repairing generating facilities, transmission equipment and distribution systems. The task force is also looking for ways to build resiliency into the islands’ power systems for the long term.

Initially, the priority had been on making sure hospitals, schools and other critical public buildings were powered up and able to provide services to Virgin Islanders. To that end, USACE has installed nearly 160 industrial generators throughout the islands in the weeks since the hurricanes. Now, as communities get back on the power grid, USACE has begun de-installing generators – another sign of progress.

Ineligibility Letter from FEMA May Not be the Last Word

Some Virgin Islanders who sustained damages as a result of Hurricanes Irma or Maria may receive a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency stating they are ineligible for disaster assistance.

If you are a survivor who received an ineligibility letter, don’t give up. It may not be the last word from FEMA. An ineligibility letter may mean that FEMA does not have all the information needed to approve an application for assistance. For example, you might need to:

  • Provide information to prove occupancy or ownership of the damaged property
  • Provide proof of identity
  • Provide documentation to prove disaster damage
  • Return insurance information

You may be found ineligible for assistance for various reasons, including:

  • Your home is determined safe to occupy
  • The home is not your primary residence
  • Another member of your household has already registered for FEMA assistance.

Federal disaster assistance is designed to help with uninsured or underinsured losses caused by the disaster. The disaster assistance gives many a starting place or “hand up” to begin the recovery process.

Applicants who wish to appeal a decision may do so in writing within 60 days from the date the ineligibility letter was received. Guidelines for appeals can be found in the Applicant’s Handbook sent to everyone who registered with FEMA.

At any time, survivors may call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585 to update their application information or get questions answered. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services may call 800-621-3362.

The toll-free telephone numbers operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice. Operators are standing by to assist survivors in English, Spanish and many other languages.

Survivors who have not yet registered for assistance may do so at the telephone numbers above, at or at one of the nine Disaster Recovery Centers across the territory.

Durable Medical Equipment Arrives for Hurricane Survivors in Need

The woman at the Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged seemed a bit hesitant as she tried out her new wheelchair for the first time. Having lost her own wheelchair during Hurricane Maria, the survivor had gone without one for several weeks. But once she was able to maneuver the new chair, a huge smile spread across her face.

“It’s wonderful to see people light up from the inside like this,” said Roxann Crawford, who leads FEMA’s Disability Integration team. “Providing durable medical equipment helps them regain some independence, which improves their overall health and well-being.”

Scenes like this may be repeated many times over in the coming weeks as hundreds of assistive medical devices are delivered to hurricane survivors in need – all of it donated by the Atlanta-based relief organization Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC).

FODAC, which supplies durable medical equipment free of charge to people with disabilities and access and functional needs, is partnering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get this vital equipment delivered to survivors in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The equipment FODAC is providing includes wheelchairs, walkers, shower supports, hospital beds, nebulizers, CPAP machines and hearing aids. The initiative was made possible as a result of another FEMA partnership, this one with the Pass it On Center, a nonprofit organization that matches donors with communities in need. Pass It On is part of the Georgia Institute of Technology, which identifies and promotes the use of appropriate assistive technology for people with disabilities.

To ensure the donated items get to survivors who need it, FEMA’s Disability Integration specialists have been reaching out to survivors who indicated they have unmet needs for durable medical equipment or other assistive technologies when they registered with FEMA.

“Our partnerships with voluntary and nongovernmental organizations are crucial to this recovery effort,” said Federal Coordinating Officer William Vogel. “Together we do what government entities alone cannot do – meet survivors’ needs.”

Survivors who lack medical equipment or have other accessibility needs should alert FEMA when registering for assistance or speak to someone on FEMA’s helpline.

Survivors have until the Dec. 18 deadline to register with FEMA for assistance. Register at or by calling 800-621-3362 (for the Helpline request to speak to a representative). Individuals who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY should call 800-462-7585 directly. Those who use 711 or Video Relay Service may call 800-621-3362.

These toll-free telephone numbers operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (local time) seven days a week. Operators are standing by to assist survivors in multiple languages.

Local and Visiting Voluntary Organizations Crucial to Recovery Efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands

As the Virgin Islands makes strides toward recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the united effort to meet survivors’ needs remains strong. Helping hands from voluntary agencies, nongovernmental organizations and businesses are delivering food and essential supplies, clearing out homes, removing debris, making repairs and providing comfort as survivors work to get their lives back on track.

Since Hurricane Irma struck the islands on Sept. 5, followed closely behind by Hurricane Maria, hundreds of local and visiting volunteers have extended their time, energy and compassion to help people in need. Now, long-term recovery groups consisting of local grassroots organizations, and faith- and community-based groups are being formed to address survivor needs, distribute resources and help reinforce vital support systems going forward.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s voluntary agency liaisons help coordinate activities among the many voluntary and nongovernmental organizations on the ground. They also provide technical advice to local groups to help the recovery process move forward into the future.

As survivors struggle with the heavy burden of rebuilding their lives, the volunteers on the ground have helped them shoulder the load. Behind a great deal of the efforts are the Virgin Islands’ own community foundations, the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development and the St. John Community Foundation that have helped raise funds and direct assistance to survivors – and will be here long after recovery.

Recovery partners, including the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, All Hands Volunteers, Community Action Now!, My Brothers Workshop, Virgin Islands ASAP Disaster Relief and dozens of other local, national and international groups have been on the ground in the Virgin Islands for months, providing life-saving and life-sustaining food and water, hot meals, fresh clothing, cleanup kits and so much more for survivors in need.

Just recently, a multi-agency warehouse was established in coordination with the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services on St. Thomas, providing a place for volunteers and local groups to direct commodities to survivors.

The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, at, also has the “Fund for the Virgin Islands” at To learn more about the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development, go to The St. John Community Foundation is at