US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association

Speaking to reporters at Government House, St. Croix on Oct. 13, Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp announced that 60 linemen began orientation on St. Thomas to assist the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority with repairing and installing power lines. An additional 100 restoration professionals arrived on St. Croix on Oct. 14, and 50 more were in St. Thomas on Oct. 15.

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.

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 Nov. 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. Meetings with the business community will be scheduled to ensure adequate preparations are made before visitors arrive.

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 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 Oct. 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 to allow the Department of Education full use of the school buildings. 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 Oct. 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 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.

Referring to the mid-November deadline for applying for individual disaster assistance from FEMA, 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.