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Disaster relief package gives Puerto Rico $1.4 billion, US Virgin Islands $27 million

A gigantic tree kocked over by Hurricane Maria in September remains atop a crushed sports complex in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Nov. 8, 2017.

CARLOS BONGIOANNI/STARS AND STRIPES

By A.J. RAO | The Virgin Islands Daily News, St. Thomas | Published: June 8, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — While Puerto Rico is slated to receive well over $1 billion in new funding as part of a sweeping $19.1 billion federal disaster relief package, the Virgin Islands appears slated for less than $30 million.

The bill, which was repeatedly blocked by House Republicans and stiff-armed by President Trump for its hefty funding toward Puerto Rico, finally passed Congress this week, with $1.4 billion set aside for the commonwealth – $600 million for its block-granted nutrition program; $300 million in additional CDBG funding; and $500 million for other needs.

By contrast, the territory will only receive roughly $27 million in additional community development block grant-disaster recovery, or CDBG-DR, funds.

This when the relief package directs higher amounts to a slew of other projects, including $1 billion to rebuild an Air Force base in Florida and $435 million to protect and restore watersheds.

The Daily News reached out to V.I. Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett on Thursday for comment, but did not receive a reply by press time.

Plaskett's spokesman Michael McQuerry, however, said the bill does require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to continue resilience checks of local infrastructure, to determine if a structure should be repaired or replaced.

It is unclear, however, how much in repairs this will entail.

Moreover, while the bill requires the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to begin the allocation of roughly $774 million in mitigation funding awarded to the territory, the funding does not represent new funding, as it was awarded last year.

Plaskett, in a prepared statement, called the bill "yet another step in helping Virgin Islanders recover from the back-to-back devastation from two of the largest hurricanes this country has ever seen."

"As a country we have a commitment to our fellow citizens that are in the midst of major rebuilding efforts, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico," she added.

President Donald Trump on Thursday signed the disaster relief package into law.

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