US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association
Making the announcement at Government House in St. Croix on Oct. 30, Mapp also encouraged the territory’s residents to exercise caution, especially at night as full power and street lighting have yet to be restored on the islands.
As the territory continues to move toward normalcy, Mapp also reported that $3 million worth of tax refunds were issued Monday.
Mapp confirmed the territory is expected to receive an estimated $800 million from the $4.9 billion approved for emergency operating loans for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, which is part of the $36.5 billion supplemental disaster recovery spending bill approved by the U.S. Congress. He said the first drawdown would take place within the next 10-15 days and will go to central government and essential services such as hospitals, the Virgin Islands Port Authority and the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority. “These are monies to replace revenues that are lost as a result of the disaster, and … will go across three fiscal years.”
Mapp cautioned that some residents may not qualify for disaster loans and grants even though they have damaged property. Noting that the cost of construction is higher in the territory than on the U.S. mainland, the governor reported he is working with William ‘Bill’ Vogel, Federal Coordinating Officer of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region II, to ensure “we have the safety nets that are required to make sure that we are addressing the needs of our community.”
To address some immediate needs, Mapp is seeking options to provide temporary housing for affected residents. “We need to implement a program to find some temporary housing stock for residents of the Virgin Islands,” he stated.
The Blue Roof program, which provides roofing tarpaulins, continues to be rolled out across the territory, with approximately 2,200 roofs installed to date.
In support of recovery efforts, another Disaster Recovery Center will open on St. Thomas later this week. There are currently 179 staff working at DRCs. Vogel reported that nearly 400 people visited the nine active DRCs on Sunday, which he contended indicated an ongoing need for services.
Approximately 31,500 persons have registered for individual assistance and more than $10 million has been dispersed through the Individuals and Households Program. The Small Business Administration has approved 250 home loans and a dozen to businesses, amounting to more than $22 million in low-interest loans.
As the territory prepares to welcome cruise ships, Mapp met with the chief executive officer of Disney Cruise Line on St. Thomas on Nov. 1. Additionally, the governor and Commissioner of Health Michelle Davis are scheduled to meet with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan on Nov. 3.
Mapp encouraged residents to be patient as restoration work continues and urged residents to express gratitude to the linemen and all those working to rebuild the U.S. Virgin Islands.