Governor Kenneth Mapp has formally filed a request for an extension of time to file the territory’s appeals to FEMA Administrator Brock Long’s December 5, 2018 decision not to extend 100 percent federal funding for the USVI STEP Program or for FEMA’s USACE Mission Assignments in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to a Government House release, the governor requested a 45-day extension for the territory to file the appeals.
“It only seems appropriate that Governor-elect Albert Bryan and his team be given adequate time to understand the complexities of the FEMA declarations process, including cost share extensions and appeals; carefully review the history of the USVI STEP Program and USACE Mission Assignments and analyze the rationale requesting the cost share in the first place,” Mr. Mapp wrote in his letter requesting the extension. If granted, the territory would have until February 19, 2019 to file its appeals to FEMA’s denials.
In denying the governor’s request earlier this month, Mr. Long said, “While we recognize that the U.S. Virgin Islands has been seriously impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, it has been determined that further adjustments to the Public Assistance cost share arrangement beyond what the President previously approved are not warranted. Therefore I must inform you that your requests are denied.”
FEMA’s decision to deny the local government’s request stands to greatly impact the territory’s ongoing recovery, even as the Bryan administration takes office in January. The 100 percent cost share proved essential in assuring the territory’s rebuild following the 2017 storms, as the local government lacks the funding to harden the territory’s infrastructure. During a recent interview on The Virgin Islands Political Consortium (V.I.P.C.), Governor-elect Albert Bryan told The Consortium that while the government had funding to meet its obligations through December, the government’s financial condition was “bad.”
“We’re bad,” he said, “We’re solid through December, but come January when all these raises kick in, we’re going to have to work hard to make sure that we’re balancing the funds.”
Following the federal government’s response, Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett wrote to Mr. Long requesting that FEMA reconsiders its position. She also issued a statement on the matter.
“Today I sent a letter to FEMA expressing my disappointment in their decision to deny the request from the governor to extend the 100 percent federal cost share through November 30 and permanently for Army Corp Assignments. On numerous occasions I have asked officials about extending the 100 percent cost share portion based on clear statutory authority given to FEMA Administrator by Congress. My letter urges Administrator Brock Long to reconsider his decision,” Ms. Plaskett said in a statement
“The federal government has underfunded the territories in numerous areas and placed arbitrary caps on its access to federal programs. This waiver extension is greatly needed to keep the territory from spending tens of millions of dollars that it does not have and diverts funds that it desperately needs for other areas. The decision to deny the request of the Governor for the waiver of the cost share diminishes our ability to fully realize the goal of rebuilding our critical infrastructure in a more resilient manner,” the delegate added.