USVI Governor Asks Congress for $5.5B Aid Package
SAN JUAN – U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp is asking the U.S. Congress to give the Caribbean territory a $5.5 billion aid package, after it was hit by hurricanes Irma and María last month.
In a letter to various members of Congress dated Oct. 12, Mapp outlines “government, public sector and housing needs at $4.7 billion and “government financial and revenue losses” at $800 million.
Damages to housing in the USVI are estimated at $1.36 billion; education at $715 million; energy $680 million and government facilities at $275 million.
Mapp also noted that “economic losses to our key industries, including tourism, at more than $2 billion and damages to commercial facilities at more than $500 million.”
As in Puerto Rico, most of the USVI’s 100,000 residents remain without electricity more than three weeks after María hit the Caribbean. “There is no power on St. John and very limited power on St. Thomas and St. Croix,” Mapp said.
In addition, economic activity in the USVI has literally ground to a halt, leading the local government to “unsustainable cash shortfalls” that will have a serious impact on providing critical health and safety services to residents, he added. “Very few businesses are operating, and those that have reopened have done so at highly-reduced levels compared to where they were prior to these destructive storms. Many private sector employees cannot return to work.”
The USVI government’s preliminary damage estimates were $750 million, which pales in comparison to the newly revised $5.5 billion estimate, after the USVI and federal governments made a more complete assessment of the reality on the ground.