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Saturday, July 20, 2024


New hours are in effect for V.I. individuals, families and business owners to register by telephone with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to seek assistance for losses incurred as a result of Hurricane Lenny.
The toll-free teleregistration numbers are in service between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. local time. Operators are on duty daily, but after this Sunday, Nov. 28, the schedule will change to six days a week, Monday through Saturday.
The general teleregistration number is 1-800-462-9029. For the hearing- and speech-impaired, the TTY number is 1-800-462-7585.
Applicants for FEMA assistance should be prepared to provide over the telephone basic information including insurance coverage and other information to substantiate losses.
The telephone application is the first step in the federal disaster-assistance process. Documentation and/or inspection will be required to verify loss claims submitted. FEMA has successfully prosecuted cases of fraud in the territory under previous hurricane relief programs.
FEMA director James Lee Witt named Michael Bryne, from the agency's Region 2 office in New York, to coordinate the federal recovery effort in the territory, which falls under Region 2. Operations have been set up on St. Croix.
With the declaration by President Clinton on Nov. 23, of a federal disaster in the territory, the following types of federal assistance "can include, as required," according to FEMA:
Public sector (territorial government):
– Payment of 75 percent of the eligible costs of repairing or replacing roads, bridges, utilities, schools, other government buildings, recreational areas and other publicly owned property. This category of funding is for the local government and certain not-for-profit organizations that provide public services.
– Payment of 75 percent of the eligible costs of removing debris from public areas and of emergency measures instituted to save lives and/or protect property and public health.
– Payment of 75 percent of the approved costs of hazard mitigation projects to be undertaken by the local government to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural or technological disasters.
All assistance to the V.I. government will be FEMA-funded and territorially administered.
Individuals and families
– FEMA-funded and administered rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are inhabitable. Initial assistance is for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for tenants; assistance may be extended if requested and approved based on a review of the situation.
– FEMA-funded and administered grants for minimal emergency repairs not covered by insurance to make damaged homes habitable.
– Grants to make essential home repairs, replace personal property and help meet medical, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, territorial or charitable aid programs. These grants are FEMA-funded at 75 percent of total eligible costs and are territorially administered.
– FEMA-funded and territorially administered unemployment payments of up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lose jobs because of the disaster and who do not quality for territorial benefits (such as self-employed individuals).
– Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance. Loans of up to $200,000 are available for primary residences and of up to $40,000 for personal property losses of both homeowners and renters.
– Low-interest loans of up to $1.5 million from the SBA to cover business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.
– Loans of up to $1.5 million from the SBA for small businesses that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster's adverse economic impact. (Such a loan in combination with an SBA property-loss loan cannot exceed a total of $1.5 million.)
Other relief programs
– Crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster, income-tax assistance for filing casualty losses, advisory assistance for legal, veterans benefits, and social security matters.
The government application procedure will be explained at a series of briefings Friday.
President Clinton issued a federal disaster declaration for the territory on Tuesday afternoon after reviewing damage-assessment data submitted by FEMA on the impact of Hurricane Lenny, which began buffeting the territory with hurricane-force winds and rain on Nov. 17. The President signed an emergency declaration on that same day that released federal resources "to help meet immediate critical needs and pay part of the cost for requested emergency work undertaken by the federal government," a FEMA release stated.
Although the greatest damage by far from Hurricane Lenny in the territory occurred on St. Croix, the disaster declaration covers the entire U.S. Virgin Islands.

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