FEMA Pledges to Expedite Recovery Through Better Collaboration

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. with FEMA acting Administrator Pete Gaynor in Washington, D.C. during a meeting in October.

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., Office of Disaster Recovery Director Adrienne Williams-Octalien and Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) Director Daryl Jaschen met with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) acting Administrator Peter Gaynor and FEMA’s U. S. Virgin Islands Recovery Director Jacquelyn Heyliger to expedite major recovery projects in the territory tied to health, roads, power, housing and schools.

Friday’s meeting continues the ongoing discussion between the governor and the acting administrator. In October, Gov. Bryan and his senior staff met with Gaynor in Washington D.C. and invited him to the territory to continue the discussion and see firsthand the status of the recovery.

Gov. Bryan, who attended Friday’s meeting via teleconference, expressed his gratitude for FEMA’s continued support in the recovery process but also conveyed his frustration with the slow pace of the critical work to restore the U.S.V.I.’s hospitals and schools and to fix the territory’s roads.

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Luis Hospital Project Manager Yvonne Thomas, who led a tour of the facility on Friday, updates FEMA acting Administrator Peter Gaynor on the project’s progress.

The governor cited issues related to local FEMA staff turnover coupled with being required to revisit decisions on projects that have already been vetted as exacerbating an already slow federal disaster recovery process.

He also emphasized the need to finalize key decisions related to the STEP program so that funding can be released to pay contractors that are owed.

On Friday, Gaynor said he is willing to work with the territory to push the projects forward and expedite progress on them.

Williams-Octalien indicated that Friday’s meeting with Gaynor would help spur the territory’s recovery from the devastating hurricanes in 2017.

“FEMA made commitments and settled on goals to finish school inspections to begin the rebuilding process and to get major road projects finalized so repairs can proceed,” Williams-Octalien said after the meeting.

Office of Disaster Recovery Director Adrienne Williams-Octalien talks about essential recovery projects alongside Gov. Albert Bryan Jr.’s Chief of Staff Karl Knight and VITEMA Director Daryl Jaschen, left.

Following the meeting Friday at Government House, Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital (JFL) acting CEO Dyma Williams and JFL Project Manager Yvonne Williams led Williams-Octalien, Gaynor and Heyliger on an extensive tour of the medical facility, Cardiac Center and modular units.

JFL leadership is finalizing contracts to complete the installation of the furniture and necessary medical equipment to complete the construction. The anticipated opening of the temporary modular hospital is set for the summer of 2020.

While this is a temporary solution, the path to a permanent health care facility is being undertaken simultaneously as $10 million has been obligated by FEMA for the design and architectural engineering for the replacement of Luis Hospital.

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