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U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Mapp Successfully Lobbies for Reform of Federal Relief Legislation Throughout United States

April 28, 2018

ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Friday to improve the federal government’s response to disasters and rebuilding communities.

The Disaster Recovery Reform Act would amend the 1988 Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which regulates how disaster recovery dollars are spent throughout the United States and its territories.

Soon after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated much of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Governor Kenneth E. Mapp began lobbying Congressional members and the Trump Administration to revise the Stafford Act in order to eliminate red tape, help control wasteful spending and, most importantly, speed up federal aid to homeowners and businesses.

Under the previous law, local authorities could only use federal funds to rebuild to pre-disaster standards, which limited federal agencies, such as FEMA and their local counterparts, from using their discretion with common-sense approaches for specific jurisdictions.

For example, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, repairing a house within the construction code might require successive programs in which a temporary roof would be put on a damaged structure through one program and then later removed to rebuild the entire house by another program.

Governor Mapp made the case to Congressional members and federal partners that it would be less disruptive for families and more cost-efficient to repair the entire home immediately without intervening steps.

“I am pleased that the House has overwhelmingly approved the Disaster Recovery Reform Act,” Governor Mapp said. “I have been in government service for a very long time in various positions and have been through five major hurricanes. My experience has taught me that the approach to federal disaster aid must be reformed not only in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but throughout the United States.”

He added: “Over recent months, I presented this case to Congressional leadership as well as to our federal partners, and they seemed to understand the need for reform, so I look forward to the Senate passing this measure and quickly placing it on the President’s desk, so we can apply it to our current recovery efforts. Once again, I thank Congress, President Trump and his Administration for their support.”