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U.S. Senate Committee Passes Extension of Disaster Unemployment Assistance

June 14, 2018

ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - A United States Senate Committee has approved the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 (S. 3041), which provides an additional 26 weeks of disaster-related unemployment assistance for the U.S. Virgin Islands, for a total of 52 weeks of assistance following the disaster declarations for Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Wednesday’s action by the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will make available an additional $8 million in assistance to approximately 1,400 Virgin Islanders. Proponents of the bipartisan legislation will seek to have the bill included in a broader package that will go to the Senate floor for final action.

U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth E. Mapp praised the Committee, commending Senator Claire McCaskill, Ranking Member, for introducing the amendment to provide the additional unemployment assistance, and the bipartisan members who voted in favor of the amendment, which was adopted on a voice vote.

“This bill reflects the Committee’s understanding of the unprecedented severity and extent of recent natural disasters and our country’s commitment to helping fellow Americans,” the Territory’s Chief Executive said. Governor Mapp also commended Delegate Stacey Plaskett for her assistance in advocating for the Territory’s recovery.

The bill also includes amendments to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, already passed by the House of Representatives, that would provide the Territory additional flexibility in the use of disaster funding, including authorizing the use of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance funding for upgrades to modern building codes, specifications, and standards and the use of Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding for resiliency measures. The package would also increase reimbursement rates to state, territorial, and local governments for direct and indirect administrative costs associated with disaster recovery efforts, and allow states and territories the option to administer FEMA funding for direct temporary and permanent housing construction in the wake of a disaster.

The Mapp-Potter Administration has been working closely with the Trump Administration, federal officials and members of Congress over the last ten months on building support for the Territory’s requests in response to the massive devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Governor Mapp plans to return to Washington, DC in late June to meet with officials to advocate for additional federal assistance for the Virgin Islands.