Gov. Bryan Asks Feds to Extend Home Repair Program

A damaged St. Thomas home with a blue tarp roof in March of 2018. (Bill Kossler photo)
A damaged St. Thomas home with a blue tarp roof in March of 2018. (Bill Kossler photo)

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. is asking FEMA to extend the Jan. 31 deadline for its Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power program to make sure eligible homes get repaired before hurricane season.

In a letter Wednesday to FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Byrne asking for the extension, Bryan highlighted the importance of the STEP Program to the people of the Virgin Islands and acknowledged the challenges the V.I. Housing Authority has experienced with repairing thousands of homes in a short period.

Bryan also underscored the need to complete repairs on the remaining homes before the 2019 Hurricane season starting in June, as it would take months to restart repairs to remaining eligible homes under other federally-funded program.

“While I understand that there are other federal programs that can fund home repairs, a project funded by either FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program or HUD’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery Program would take at least several months to get started,” Bryan wrote.

“To continue STEP now without interruption is the only logical way to guarantee that these remaining 1,700 homes will be repaired before the 2019 hurricane season is upon us,” the governor wrote.

According to Government House, 5,500 homes in the territory have received repairs under the STEP program with 1,700 more awaiting repair. With 480 five-person roofing crews in the territory and another 75 crews arriving next week, the STEP program is reportedly 79 percent complete.