Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett Says the Federal Government Must Not Forget What Happened in the Virgin Islands
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett (USVI), Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy, and Environment released the following statement to discuss the need for renewed action and accountability for the federal hurricane recovery response in the U.S. Virgin Islands:
“Our hearts are with the families along the Carolina coast and in the affected inland areas as they brace for hurricane Florence this weekend. These storms cause very dangerous conditions and the risk to life can remain well after the winds, and the rains subside. We, unfortunately, saw that in Puerto Rico, which saw its death toll climb to 3,000 mostly due to storm-related conditions in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
“Thank you, Leader Pelosi, for your continued support in the ongoing recovery and rebuilding efforts underway in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. While the USVI is grateful for the response of the Federal Government and indeed the support of the more than 120 members of Congress from both sides of the aisle who witness the devastation on the ground, there are still areas where the federal response is lacking.
“This Congress doubled the administrations’ recommended disaster supplemental for areas affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and the California Wildfires from $43 to $86 billion. The relief bill contained set-asides to allow the Virgin Islands to rebuild utilities with resilience and alternative energy.
“They also include $1.6 billion in funding for housing, infrastructure, and business assistance. But with all this federal support from the Congress, for whatever reason, the current administration, specifically the Treasury Department, has sought to implement unnecessary roadblocks to the Virgin Islands accessing the funding critical to its recovery and rebuilding.
“The treasury department is requiring the Virgin Islands of the United States, to receive the lions share of the funding allocated for the post-Irma-and-Maria rebuild, give the federal government priority over its bonds. That was not the intent of this Congress, and that is not how you help your fellow Americans.
“Today one year after Hurricane Maria, ten schools in the Virgin Islands remained closed. And the ones that did open do not meet the most basic standards of an environment conducive to the learning needs of our students. We have students who, on the first day of school had to sit on desks and milk crates because there was not enough desk and chairs.
“There are schools with empty libraries. No books. No shelves. One of the two public high schools in St. Croix is closed for at least another week after an electrical fire forced the school to close just two days after it opened for the new school year. Contractors are still constructing modular classrooms, now two weeks into the new school year causing further delays and unsafe conditions at the schools that are open.”