Virgin Islands asks federal government for $5.5 billion

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The U.S. Virgin Islands government has asked the federal government for $5.5 billion in relief from Hurricane Irma’s and Hurricane Maria’s damages.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp made the request in a letter to Congressional leaders on Thursday.

Mapp said the government needed $4.7 billion for government infrastructure replacements, repair, and other spending stemming from the hurricanes and $800 million to make up for projected revenue shortfalls associated with the storms.

“Both of our hospitals and the appurtenant health facilities, four schools, two fire stations, a police station, and much of our infrastructure have been destroyed,” Mapp said. “The terminals at the Cyril E. King and Henry Rohlsen airports are heavily damaged. Many government offices are unusable, facilities of the judicial and legislative branches have been damaged and governmental operations have been drastically impacted and reduced by the hurricanes.

“There is no power on St. John and very limited power on St. Thomas and St. Croix. Virtually all of the power distribution infrastructure was destroyed, and most telephone lines are down and cellular towers destroyed,” Mapp continued.

“Most homes, hotels, and resorts are either destroyed or substantially damaged. We are at the U.S. government’s mercy,” Mapp said.

Mapp broke down the hurricane-related $4.7 billion spending request into $1.36 billion for housing, $715 million for education, $680 million for energy, $275 million for government facilities, $155 million for transportation, $115 million for hospitals and healthcare, $80 million for telecommunications, $55 million for other government sectors, $300 million for public resilience measures, and $1 billion for ongoing emergency response activities.

The governor split the projected $800 million in revenue shortfall into $450 million for the government’s General Fund and $350 million for other governmental components and authorities.

On Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $4.9 billion loan to the governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For the loan to pass, the U.S. Senate will also have to approve it and President Trump will have to sign it. As the Virgin Islands has 3% of the population of Puerto Rico, it might get only a sliver of this loan. The actual proportion hasn’t yet been determined.

On Friday, staff at the office of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló sent out a press release that said, among other things, “This loan is forgiven 94% of the time.”

The Virgin Islands government hasn’t yet determined the forms of federal aid it expects to cover its $5.5 billion of needs, according to a government source.

On Friday, U.S. Speaker Paul Ryan said federal aid for Puerto Rico and, by implication, the Virgin Islands, was in the “humanitarian phase.” He said the next aid package will be more geared to the long-term. He said the federal government is invested in making sure that Puerto Rico would have a strong economy and be a good place to live.

Limetree Bay Terminals in St. Croix, a major employer in the Virgin Islands, resumed operations within 24 hours after Maria’s passage.

“Limetree Bay Terminals, L.L.C. owns and operates a terminal storage and marine facility in St. Croix … that consists of 32 million barrels of crude oil and petroleum product storage capacity, a deep-water port with ten ship docks and six dedicated tug boats, a truck rack, and idled refinery units with total peak processing capacity of 650 thousand barrels per day,” according to a Limetree Bay Terminals, L.L.C. press statement.

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Speculative grade bonds Hurricane Maria Hurricane Irma Government of the Virgin Islands Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority U.S. Virgin Islands