Jan. 15, 2004 – The Federal Emergency Management Agency intends to expand its purchase of local goods and services in future disaster-response operations and is in the process of upgrading its plans and procedures for doing so.
That was information FEMA officials took to the table on Thursday in a meeting on St. Thomas with Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, in his capacity as acting governor, other administration officials and local business representatives.
In a release issued afterward from Government House, Richards said the V.I. officials cited a need for additional federal funding "to correct obvious deficiencies in safeguarding the territory's borders" as part of national homeland security initiatives.
Richards also urged FEMA to change the funding formula for the public assistance the territory is receiving as a result of the federal disaster declaration in November following two weeks of torrential rains and flooding. The presidential declaration states that the federal government will provide 75 percent of the funding, with the territory to supply a 25 percent match. The V.I. government wants that changed to 90 percent federal and 10 percent local.
At the meeting, FEMA officials also said the federal agency intends to focus on and provide funding for hazard mitigation projects aimed at reducing losses in future disasters. There was an emphasis on mitigation measures, notably involving a beefed-up building code, in the recovery phase of FEMA's assistance following Hurricanes Marilyn and Bertha in 1995 and 1996.
Federal officials attending the meeting included Jose Bravo of FEMA's Puerto Rico district office; Brad Gair, coordinator of the November disaster recovery effort; and Dan Craig from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, under which FEMA now operates.
V.I. officials present in addition to Richards included Ira Mills, Office of Management and Budget director; Edward E. Thomas Sr., chief executive of The West Indian Co.; and Sen. Lorraine Berry, chair of the Senate Public Safety, Judiciary, Homeland Security and Justice Committee.
The release said Mills brought up the territory's application to FEMA for forgiveness of its Hurricane Marilyn community disaster loan, Thomas described security upgrades at the Havensight cruise ship dock and mall, and Berry raised concerns "relative to methods of ensuring rapid economic recovery following disasters."
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