Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. announced Monday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded the territory $233 million to cover costs of the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority’s Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power Pilot Program.
The announcement came in a news release issued Monday by Government House.
The STEP Program ended in April and was designed to allow residents to remain in their homes while temporary repairs were being made. It has been succeeded by the EnVision Tomorrow Housing Recovery Repair Program for homes and rental units, and it provides federal funding to qualified residents for permanent repairs necessitated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Bryan said Monday that his administration had worked on the issue since taking office in January and expressed his gratitude to FEMA and acting Administrator Pete Gaynor for FEMA’s continued support in the territory’s recovery.
“Keeping the recovery on track is one of our key priorities, and we have worked tirelessly since taking office this year to clean up the past discrepancies in this program,” Bryan said in the news release. “Today, I am proud to announce that we can now move forward with providing the much-needed payments to the STEP contractors, who have been more than patient throughout this process.”
“I want to thank FEMA, and acting Administrator Gaynor, as well as Office of Disaster Recovery Director Adrienne Williams-Octalien and Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority Executive Director Daryl Griffith for all of their efforts,” the governor added.
The award is new funding from FEMA and will be used primarily to reimburse contractors who participated in STEP repairs following Hurricane Maria in 2017.
In October, Bryan and his senior staff met with FEMA’s Gaynor in Washington D.C. and invited him to the territory to continue the discussion and to see firsthand the status of the recovery.
Earlier this month, Gaynor visited St. Croix and toured Gov. Juan F. Luis Memorial Hospital, and Bryan expressed his gratitude for the assistance of the territory’s federal partners in the recovery process but shared his frustration with the lack of progress on the essential work of restoring the U.S. Virgin Islands’ hospitals and schools and fixing the roads.
During the St. Croix visit, Gaynor said he would work with the territory to push the projects forward and expedite progress on them.
Bryan added Monday that while the obligation of the funding is a significant milestone, there are still a few details to work out with FEMA before making contractor payments.