FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 3, 2017
GOVERNOR MAPP TO MEET PRESIDENT TRUMP ON NAVY VESSEL
U.S. Virgin Islands Governor thanks community for valiant effort and federal government for support as Territory recovers

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - Governor Kenneth E. Mapp of the U.S. Virgin Islands will meet U.S. President Donald J. Trump during the American leader’s visit to the Caribbean on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters at Government House, St. Croix, on Monday, Governor Mapp said he, along with Adjutant General Deborah Howell, Virgin Islands Police Department Commissioner Delroy Richards, Sr. and Mona Barnes, Director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), will meet the U.S. President on a Navy vessel between Puerto Rico and Vieques to discuss relief and recovery efforts following September’s back-to-back hurricanes.

A priority for the meeting, said Governor Mapp, was to hasten the roll-out of the Blue Roof program to “get folks out of the elements”. He would request a directive from President Trump to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open up the process to additional contractors.

“Trying to do the Blue Roof program with one main contractor and then that contractor sub-contracting the work, is going to be a dismal failure,” Governor Mapp said. “It was a dismal failure during Hurricane Marilyn because what happens is that the main contractor creates a pricing structure for the sub-contractors that they will not accept, and the reality is we simply want to get people’s roofs covered,” he said.

Among the items on the agenda for the Governor’s meeting with the President is the Administration’s support for a special community disaster loan under the Stafford Act that must be enacted and funded by the U.S. Congress; funding for infrastructure repairs, including the islands’ hospitals and schools; mitigation to lay the Territory’s power lines underground; and assistance with fee schedules for hospitals and an increased federal share of Medicaid program costs.

He lamented the latest problems caused by heavy downpours, “because we’re not fit for rain” with shelters, health services and government buildings being flooded.

The Governor thanked everyone for their resolve and resilience in helping the Territory recover: “It’s been a daunting challenge, but we continue to make progress … because our federal partners have stepped up to the plate - they’ve delivered, our local community and our business community have delivered, our public sector workers have done a daunting task (with) the number of hours that many of them have put in … volunteers and families have been out on the road helping - I just want to big up everyone and thank everyone,” he said.

It was a consolidated Territory-wide approach that he wanted to preserve: “We need to continue to work together as a community to ensure a fast and a wholesome recovery. … We are not going to recover for speed’s sake - we want to make sure our recovery is filled with quality, that we’re building resilience … because hurricanes are going to be a part of our lives. They are going to be coming more often and they are going to be more ferocious.”

With the arrival of AT&T’s barges, and the visiting technicians working with local counterparts, three of the 28 towers in the Territory are now functional. “Folks in the Territory should begin to see more connectivity and more access for communications going forward,” he said.

Governor Mapp was heartened to see “a sense of normalcy” returning with reduced lines for gas and groceries, so starting Tuesday, October 3, he ordered the curfew in the St. Thomas/St. John district reduced from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m, and on St. Croix from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. However, more debris has to be cleared on St. Croix before the curfew can be shrunk any further.

Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty reported that, to date, a total of 4,500 residents and visitors have been evacuated from the U.S. Virgin Islands through the generosity of the Territory’s cruise and airline partners. She thanked Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises for their assistance in providing humanitarian relief and mercy missions from the Territory. A total of 3,000 passengers have now left the Territory on mercy cruises. She also thanked Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and, in particular, JetBlue Airways, for helping transport some 1,500 passengers by air.

Assessments have begun of hotels and tourism-related businesses in both districts as the Department focuses on the Territory’s readiness for visitors for the upcoming tourist season. Discussions are ongoing with cruise and airline partners, with the latter focusing on normalizing flight schedules.

Commissioner Nicholson-Doty shared her deepest thanks to the Department of Tourism team and the number of volunteers who have helped with organizing the mercy missions. She also announced a visitor information center will open in Christiansted, St. Croix, on Wednesday, October 4.

VITEMA Director Barnes reported that Points of Distribution (POD) dispersal continues to be successful and about 1,000 tarpaulins were distributed Monday.

Health Commissioner Dr. Michelle Davis reported that an additional mental health team had arrived in the Territory to provide services on St. Thomas and St. Croix on Monday. The Association of Virgin Islands Psychologists has also conducted counselling, while federal behavioral mental health teams have been visiting shelters throughout the Territory to provide mental health services. There is one team per island comprising psychologists, social workers and a psychiatrist. “They’ll be available for anyone that wants to see them,” Commissioner Davis said, adding that the federal teams will continue to provide this support all week long. Arrangements are also being made for the Cabinet and their staff members who want to avail themselves of these services.

The Department of Health provides individual and family counselling as well, the Commissioner added, advising residents to call (340) 718-1311, extension 3638 or 3648. She reminded the public that anyone experiencing psychological distress as a result of the hurricanes can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish). The helpline provides free, confidential and multilingual counseling and crisis support. The helpline can also be reached via SMS by texting talkwithus (for English) or hablanos (for Spanish) to 1-212-461-4635 .

Residents can register for disaster assistance by calling 1-800-621-3362 or visiting www.disasterassistance.gov .

The official website to donate to the U.S. Virgin Islands recovery effort is usvirecovery.org .

Other resources for information include:

Government House: informusvi.com
VITEMA: vialert.gov
The Department of Tourism: www.usviupdate.com
Emergency Operation Centers:
(340) 773-2244 (St. Croix)
(340) 776-2244 (St. John)
(340) 774-2244 (St. Thomas)

Government House | No. 21-22 Kongens Gade | 340 774-0001 | www.vi.gov
  
     
       For more information:
     Samuel Topp |  Deputy Director of Communications
     (340) 998-6658 |   samuel.topp@go.vi.gov