GLADHANDING SESSION: Members of FEMA and Homeland Security met with Virgin Islands government officials on Friday.
CHRISTIANSTED — Acting Governor and Finance Commissioner Valdamier Collens met Friday with the United States Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), William “Brock” Long, to discuss the territory’s ongoing recovery, including matters related to the Community Disaster Loan program, accessibility to Immediate Needs funding, the permanent roof initiative under the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) Program and other federal assistance.
Secretary Nielsen noted she was impressed by the visible progress in terms of cleanup and rebuilding.
“We have made significant headway,” Acting Governor Collens said.
Acting Governor Collens shared the Administration’s appreciation for the support the U.S Virgin Islands has received thus far and requested that the Emergency Home Repair program be extended from September 11 to November 30 as many homeowners still require assistance.
The Acting Governor, as well as Delegate Stacey Plaskett, also expressed concerns about implementing upgrades to the airports, restoring public housing and the U.S. Virgin Islands’ economic recovery, particularly in light of the impact to the territory’s tourism industry.
The Department of Homeland Security oversees FEMA in addition to the agencies that protect the nation’s borders and ports. Acting Governor Collens highlighted for Secretary Nielsen the improvements needed in terms of border control and the operations of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Following the meeting, which took place at St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, the federal officials toured the condemned Arthur Richards Junior High School and witnessed the installation of modular classrooms that were delivered earlier in the week.
“Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Brock Long, head of FEMA, went on tour in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Friday,” Hon Natty Dread wrote on Facebook. “Their mission, nearly a year after Hurricane Maria devastated both territories? To “meet with and thank Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel working on hurricane recovery and preparedness efforts.”