ST THOMAS, USVI — The United States Senate has completed action on a $36.5 billion supplemental disaster recovery spending bill, which includes $4.9 billion for emergency operating loans for the governments of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, USVI Governor Kenneth Mapp announced. The bill, which passed the Senate on a vote of 80-19, now goes to the president for his expected signature.
Mapp said his administration has been working with officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the last several weeks on an emergency Community Disaster Loan, in anticipation of the Congressional action, to cover the territory’s operating expenses in the aftermath of the devastation by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The supplemental spending bill includes a waiver requested by Mapp that eliminates the statutory $5 million cap on the CDL loan amount. The purpose of the loan is to cover all disaster-related revenue losses for the local government and to avoid disruption of essential public services.
The supplemental appropriations legislation also includes a total of $18.7 billion to refill FEMA’s coffers and to fund immediate FEMA disaster response costs.
In a letter to Mapp, US Office of Management Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney said that the supplemental bills contained funds for the most pressing emergency and recovery needs. He said long-term recovery needs of the US Virgin Islands and other affected jurisdictions would be addressed in later spending legislation.
Mapp praised the Senate action, commending Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for taking up the bill quickly after the House of Representatives acted to approve the bill.
“The swift Congressional action reflects Congress’s recognition of the unprecedented nature and scope of the disaster, as well as Congress’s willingness to assist their fellow Americans at a time of great need,” the territory’s chief executive said.
Mapp also announced he would be traveling to Washington, DC early next month to testify in support of additional federal assistance for the Virgin Islands in hearings planned by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, which has jurisdiction over the US territories.