CHARLOTTE AMALIE — A bi-partisan group of U.S. Congressional lawmakers toured parts of the territory Sunday, some 47 days after Hurricanes Irma and Maria decimated St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.
The delegation included Senator Kamala Harris, (D-California), Senator Lisa Murkowski, (R-Alaska), Senator Bill Cassidy, (R-Louisiana), Senator Tom Carper, (D-Delaware), Senator Al Franken, (D-Minnesota), Rep. Peter DeFazio, (D-Oregon), Rep. Bill Shuster, (R-Pennsylvania) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-Louisiana) who saw firsthand some of the devastation wreaked by the hurricanes.
Gov. Kenneth Mapp led congressional representatives on a tour of severely damaged areas throughout St. Thomas, including the Tutu High Rise housing projects and Roy L. Schneider Regional Medical Center.
The visit came ahead of the governor’s planned testimony before the U.S. Senate and House Energy and Natural Resources Committees next week.
The cost for complete recovery of the Virgin Islands has been estimated at $5.5 billion.
Most of the island remains without power and running water and communications remains poor even though the curfew island wide has been lifted.
Mapp insisted that the tours are necessary to build support for the money the territory is asking Congress for.
“It is so critical that Congress sees firsthand the challenges we face in rebuilding our infrastructure,” Mapp said. “I am truly grateful to the United States Senators for making this visit and believe they left with a more complete understanding of our needs.”
Joining Mapp on the tour were Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware), Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota), Senator Kamala Harris (D-California), Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), Rep. Garret Graves (R-Louisiana), Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico Jenniffer González-Colón, and Isaac Edwards, Senior Counsel, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The governor will testify next week before Senate and House committees, including the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which Senator Murkowski is Chair, regarding additional funding to rebuild the U.S. Virgin Islands. The cost for complete recovery has been estimated at $5.5 billion.
While viewing storm-damaged portions of the island, Mapp fielded questions about the territory’s recovery, and claimed he had a vision for building a better, more resilient U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of September’s back-to-back hurricanes.
The chief executive also discussed details of recovery plans, including building smaller, more efficient hospitals to replace the existing buildings.