The V.I. government estimates the cost to rebuild the U.S. Virgin Islands’ infrastructure after last month’s two devastating Category 5 hurricanes at $5.5 billion dollars, Gov. Kenneth Mapp said Thursday in a letter to Congress.
The letter outlined the costs associated with restoring USVI’s power system, rebuilding schools and hospitals, repairing government facilities and covering revenue losses due to the two storms.
“After a comprehensive and thoughtful examination of our damages and recovery requirements, we believe that disaster assistance and support of approximately $5.5 billion would enable the territory to address the most essential needs of American citizens residing in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Mapp wrote.
“Both of our hospitals and the appurtenant health facilities, four schools, two fire stations, a police station and much of our infrastructure has been destroyed. 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,” Mapp elaborated.
The V.I. government worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies to complete a detailed sector-by-sector assessment of the damages across the territory in order to arrive at the $5.5 billion figure.
The largest costs are for housing – estimated at $1.36 billion. Rebuilding destroyed schools is expected to cost $715 million and restoring the U.S. Virgin Islands power system is projected to cost around $680 million.
Mapp addressed his appeal to U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D-VI).
More than 100,000 Virgin Islanders were affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria – which came a mere 12 days apart and brought winds as high as 200 miles per hour and more than 20 inches of rain.
“Power lines are strewn across our roads; utility poles snapped in half like matchsticks; boats lie sunken in the harbors; many thousands of our homes stand heavily damaged or destroyed and some of our major road systems are impassable,” he wrote. “Many structures on our beautiful islands are gone, reduced to rubble by the tremendous force of these back-to-back Category 5 storms.”
Mapp added that 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. Most homes, hotels, and resorts are either destroyed or substantially damaged.”
He went on to say that the USVI economy had “ground to a near standstill” and that the loss of revenue will cause unsustainable cash shortfalls for the government, pulling around $450 million from expected tax revenues. Economic losses to key industries such as tourism may amount to another $2 billion and damage to commercial facilities more than $500 million, he said.
Mapp said the territory is committed to carrying out recovery efforts efficiently, but said help from Congress is essential.
“We are at the U.S. Government’s mercy,” he said.