President Donald Trump granted a major disaster declaration for the territory on Tuesday, triggering the release of federal funds to mitigate the health and economic devastation brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, Government House reported Thursday.
The declaration designates federal assistance to be used for emergency health care aid related to coronavirus and peripheral issues arising from the pandemic. The federal assistance will be administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and provide 75 percent federal funding for all islands in the territory, with the USVI matching the remaining 25 percent.
Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. has requested federal aid for persons and households affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, and that request for individual assistance is currently under review by the federal government.
“While this is welcome relief and will assist our efforts to contain the spread of the virus, this declaration is not as expansive as we have hoped,” Bryan said in a press release. “The measures required to effectively respond to the health crisis have created an economic crisis across the nation and in our territory and we are hoping for additional support for our dislocated workers, small businesses owners, farmers and fishermen,” he said.
According to Government House, among the specified uses for public assistance that have been approved are:
– Management, control and reduction of immediate threats to public health and safety, such as Emergency Operation Center costs and disinfection of public facilities.
– Emergency medical care, including medical treatment of infected persons in a shelter or temporary medical facility, use of specialized medical equipment and medical supplies.
– Medical sheltering.
– Purchase and distribution of food, water, ice, medicine and other consumable supplies.
– Security and law enforcement.
– Movement of supplies and persons.
– Communications of general health and safety to the public.
FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor named William Vogel as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in affected areas. Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the territory and warranted by further assessments.