US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association

An estimated $23 million has been approved for the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp made the announcement on Nov. 3 at Government House in St. Croix, stating that the funds will cover approximately 38,000 residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands – those who will qualify for both the pre-existing SNAP and the disaster-related D-SNAP programs.

On Oct. 31, the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the request by the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services to operate a D-SNAP food-purchasing assistance program in the territory. Residents who currently receive benefits under the “regular” SNAP program need not apply for D-SNAP.

The governor said the Department of Human Services will facilitate the application process for seven days, beginning Nov. 6 through Nov. 9, and resuming from Nov. 13 until Nov. 15 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

D-SNAP is expected to provide two months of supplemental funding for food assistance.

On Nov. 3, the governor, along with his Commissioner of Human Services Felecia Blyden and Commissioner of Health Michelle Davis, met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Eric Hargan and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec to discuss waiving the Medicaid match for three years.

On Nov. 5, United States Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, visited the U.S. Virgin Islands with fellow committee members. Mapp accompanied the delegation to hurricane-stricken sites in the territory as they prepare for a Nov. 14 Senate hearing on hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Mapp reported that he will provide to Virgin Islands Delegate to the House of Representatives Stacey Plaskett an update to Congress on the territory’s rebuilding needs, which are expected to grow by an additional $2 billion dollars.

Residents were advised that the deadline for application to the Blue Roof Program has been extended to Nov. 23 due to its slow start.

Director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency Mona Barnes encouraged residents to call 1-888-766-3258 or apply in person at a District Recovery Center. All persons with damaged roofs are encouraged to apply to the program, even if homes have no frame or an insufficient frame. DRCs have representatives who will assist them between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except at St. Peter’s Church on St. Croix, which is closed from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, and Rotary Club St. Croix West, which operates on alternate Sundays.

While in St. Thomas on Nov. 3, Mapp and Public Works Commissioner Nelson Petty surveyed the cleanup work across the island. The governor observed that roads were generally clear and noted more trash bins were being secured to assist with the removal of debris and waste on the road side. “We are going to make a concerted effort to clean it up,” he assured.

According to the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority an increasing number of communities are now “energized.” Approximately 21 percent of residents have power across the territory. Linemen will continue to support power restoration works and an additional 200 professionals are expected in the territory this month. WAPA is on track to restore power to 90 percent of the Virgin Islands by Christmas.

St. Croix School District Superintendent Colleen Mae Williams announced that six elementary schools in the St. Croix district were expected to re-open on Nov. 6: Claude O. Markoe Elementary School, Alexander Henderson Elementary School, Eulalie Rivera Elementary School, Alfredo Andrews Elementary School, Ricardo Richards Elementary School and Lew Muckle Elementary School. Morning sessions will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; afternoon sessions will run from 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Parents are encouraged to note new pick-up times and bus stop designations for their children.

With the support of federal partners as well as Virgin Islanders “taking ownership” of the response to the disasters, Mapp stated that he has great confidence in the future of the Virgin Islands. “What could our outlook be, if not positive? What could our expectation be, if not vibrant and strong and exuberant about the road that we are on, as we march on into the future of the lives of the people of the Virgin Islands?”

Mapp extended condolences to the family of Bernadine Bailey, otherwise known as “Big B” of Frederiksted. The governor described the late Mr. Bailey as a friend, a confidante and “a real trooper, a real Virgin Islander.”

All government and public agency employees across the territory have been advised to return to their normal eight-hour work day effective Nov. 6 at 8 a.m.