IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Biden to Increase Federal Funding for Hurricane Recovery

In a statement, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said the adjustments to the federal cost share are an extension of the Biden-Harris administration's and FEMA's commitments to support long-term recovery.

A palm tree with its branches being blown sideways in strong winds.
(TNS) - FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell announced Thursday night that President Joe Biden approved additional disaster assistance for the U.S. Virgin Islands by authorizing an increase of the federal contribution for eligible costs after hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.

"With this adjustment, eligible disaster cost sharing will now be funded at a 95 percent federal match and permanent works projects under section 428 of alternative procedures will now be funded at a 98 percent federal match for a period of fixed-term, including projects that support the repair and replacement of critical services on the islands," according to a statement issued from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's office out of Puerto Rico about 7:30 p.m. Thursday night.

Adrienne Williams Octalien, who heads the Disaster Recovery office, told senators at a November hearing of the Committee on Disaster Recovery, Infrastructure, and Planning that the Virgin Islands was struggling to meet the local 10% match requirement for numerous public assistance grants.

In Thursday's statement, Criswell said the adjustments to the federal cost share are an extension of the Biden-Harris administration's and FEMA's commitments to support long-term recovery and make the territory more resilient to future storms.

The statement also noted that the "Insular Areas Act recognizes the unique circumstances of the USVI and provides greater flexibility to maximize reconstruction efforts."

The increased federal match will not only enable and accelerate necessary recovery projects, but will also allow the USVI to maximize the use of existing Disaster Recovery Community Development Block Grant funds to address other critical aspects of disaster recovery, such as resilient and affordable housing, economic revitalization and other projects that will invest in the territory's future, the release stated.

Roughly two hours prior to FEMA's released statement, Government House announced a planned press conference for this morning, citing disaster recovery projects. A Bryan spokesperson could not be reached for comment as of Daily News press time Thursday night.

"The President recognizes the challenges that the cost-sharing requirement presented to the USVI and this adjustment will provide more than $1.1 billion in additional grants to accelerate comprehensive and resilient recovery across the territory," Criswell said in the statement.

Biden, a frequent visitor to St. Croix, spent both his 2022 and 2023 Christmas holidays on the island. The trips were his first and second as president, but he's visited both as vice president during the Obama years and after leaving office.

In early January, a video circulating online showed vehicles in the president's motorcade falling in and out of potholes as they slowly made their way out of downtown Christiansted where the president had just had dinner.

Former News One host Roland Martin, who'd also vacationed on the island ahead of the Biden family, famously called out V.I. Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. on V.I. infrastructure in an Instagram post.

On Dec. 23, Martin wrote "On tomorrow, President Joe Biden heads to St. Croix for vacation. He's been there many times. Now he'll be vacationing in the wealthy part of St. Croix, but I sure hope he drops a note in the ear [of] the @usvirginislands Governor Albert Bryan Jr. to spend some of that infrastructure money they got on the roads there. I absolutely enjoyed my time there, but my goodness, the roads were TREACHEROUS!"

He implied that he could make a hefty sum as a particular businessman.

"If I started a business there, it would be a car suspension and tire company. That's how bad the roads were. There is no reason that St. Croix is a part of the United States and the roads were that bad. Loved the people and the island, but not the decrepit roads," Martin wrote.

©2024 The Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas, VIR) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.