The Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced a multi-million dollar aid package for hurricane recovery efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to a press release at the HUD official site, “The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today awarded $242.7 million to help the U.S. Virgin Islands to recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. HUD’s Deputy Secretary Pamela Hughes Patenaude announced the disaster recovery grants with Governor Kenneth E. Mapp during a tour of damaged homes in St. Thomas”.
The HUD recovery funds, similar to those authorized for disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, are via HUD’s Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program and “support long-term recovery, including infrastructure, seriously damaged housing, and economic recovery in the Territory” according to the HUD official site.
“These recovery funds will help with broad based economic recovery including damaged homes” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who was quoted in the press release. “As local leaders, along with their citizens, develop their recovery plans, HUD will reduce regulatory barriers and remove any unnecessary roadblocks to speed long-term recovery.”
“We are immensely grateful that HUD is helping to support the long-term recovery underway in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Governor Kenneth Mapp, also quoted in press release. “We are developing a thoughtful plan to restore our housing stock and support our local business community – together we will rebuild smarter and stronger.”
CDBG-DR funds were made available with the passing of 2017’s Public Law 115-56 to the tune of $7.4 billion in CDBG-DR funding for major federal disasters declared in calendar year 2017. According to the HUD official site, distribution of these funds is regulated by law; they must be used in areas “most impacted by qualifying disasters”.
These grants can be used, where directed, to fund housing redevelopment, rebuilding, infrastructure, and “business revitalization”. These recovery funds are intended to be used mostly for hardest hit areas as identified by HUD, which also issues guidelines for acceptable use of the grant.
According to the HUD press release, the agency gathers data from a wide range of sources to determine how the funds must be allocated.
“HUD relied upon a wide variety of disaster-related information, including data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA), to determine the extent of unmet housing and small business needs in the areas most impacted by the disasters. HUD’s analysis found thousands of middle – and lower-income homeowners and renters experienced serious damage to their residences and who were not adequately insured (or uninsured) for their losses.”
The agency reports that businesses in the area face similar challenges, especially where a lack of insurance is concerned.