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HomeCommentaryLegislature CornerLegislature Corner: September Is Fifth Anniversary of Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Legislature Corner: September Is Fifth Anniversary of Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Palm trees during a hurricane on St Croix. Source file photo)
Palm trees during a hurricane on St Croix. (Source file photo)

September 2022 marks the 5th year anniversary of hurricanes Irma (Sept. 6) and Maria (Sept. 20) making landfall in the Virgin Islands and the widespread, significant destruction from those storms. Both storms are on record as Category 5 hurricanes while in the Virgin Islands and impacted our territory within two weeks of each other.

Congresswoman Plaskett released the following statement regarding her legislative activities to commemorate this noteworthy time frame:

“Five years ago this week, the residents of St. Thomas and St. John were reeling from the [destruction] wrought by Hurricane Irma, while the residents of St. Croix provided support for the recovery. Little did we know that Hurricane Maria would hit the island of St Croix just two weeks later. These back-to-back Category 5 storms hit every part of the Virgin Islands. Since the hurricanes, I and my team have worked tremendously hard to elevate the plight of the Virgin Islands, bringing much needed attention, resources and landmark funding to our territory in order to foster necessary and transformational changes in our infrastructure through the rebuilding and recovery process.

“As we commemorate the 5th anniversary of hurricanes Irma and Maria and their impact on our islands, in honor of the progress that we have made as a territory and as a people and in recognition of the continued hard work being done by myself, my team, the Government of the Virgin Islands and all Virgin Islanders, I am pleased to share the following initiatives:

H.R. 1337 – My office has introduced a House resolution that lauds Virgin Islanders for their perseverance, grit and tenacity through major disasters attributable to Hurricanes Irma and Maria and recognizes Members of Congress for their support in accruing funding to support the Virgin Islands through these disasters.

H.R. 5774– This bill creates a new funding stream for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to expeditiously (within 30 days) allocate additional assistance to cover unmet needs as a result of a major disaster. It would also clarify that FEMA individual assistance may be used to make more permanent home improvements for long-term disaster recovery and that direct assistance for permanent or semi-permanent housing is permissible if it is a cost-effective alternative to other housing solutions.  The next step in the legislative process is the passage of the bill by the full House of Representatives, which is scheduled to occur this week.

“Additionally, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has announced a hearing to be held on Sept. 15, 2022, entitled ‘Recovery Update: Status of FEMA Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands 5 Years After Hurricanes Irma & Maria.’ At the hearing, members of Congress will hear from witnesses on the current status of disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands five years after hurricanes Irma and Maria. Virgin Islands Office of Disaster Recovery Director Adrienne Williams will testify on behalf of the Virgin Islands.  FEMA and the Government Accountability Office will also testify.

“Furthermore, the House Ways and Means Committee also has announced a hearing, to be held on Sept. 15, entitled ‘Preparing America’s Health Care Infrastructure for the Climate Crisis.’  With this hearing, the committee intends to think through how the federal government can improve its work to build more resilient healthcare systems and prepare healthcare facilities for the 21st century, as we are experiencing more severe extreme weather systems.

“I am tremendously proud of our progress as a people thus far and of our response immediately after the storms—transporting food and medical supplies and remaining incredibly strong in the process of rebuilding not only our homes and infrastructure but our very lives. VI Strong, always.”

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