ST CROIX, V.I. -- In less than ten days after President Clinton declared the U. S. Virgin Islands a major disaster area in the wake of Hurricane Lenny, almost fifteen hundred households have registered for assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by calling the toll free teleregistration number at 1-800-462-9029, disaster recovery officials announced today. Checks totaling $83,224 are in the mail to 85 of those households, officials said.
"Today, we have fifteen inspectors in the field verifying damages," said Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Byrne. "To ensure that the inspectors' damage reports are accurate, we have one quality control team in the field verifying the inspections," he added.
All inspectors call to make appointments before arriving at households. In addition to wearing FEMA gear, inspectors have identification badges that clearly state their names and that they are FEMA representatives. "It is very important that you check the identification of those you allow into your homes and their services are free," advised Assistant Territory Coordinating Officer Col. Gene J. P. Walker. "Unfortunately, there are those in our community who would essentially victimize people twice by representing themselves as FEMA inspectors. We need to keep our wits about us," Walker said.
Disaster recovery officials also warn that FEMA does not select, refer or approve home repair contractors. Before hiring contractors, officials provide the following tips individuals to:
- Obtain at least three bids in writing
- Check references thoroughly
- Check for proper licenses
- Check with the Virgin Islands Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs for previous complaints
- Ensure that all work to be completed is spelled out entirely in the contract
- Pay for all services with checks, not cash
- Do not pay for all of the work until it is completed
- Do not sign any contracts before reading the entire agreement
Help prevent fraud, waste and abuse in all FEMA programs. To report cases of suspected fraud, call toll free at 1-800-323-8603 or write to FEMA, Office of the Inspector General, Room 502, Washington, D. C. The identity of all writers and callers is fully protected.
All Virgin Islanders who have suffered damages as a result of Hurricane Lenny are encouraged to register for assistance by calling toll free to 1-800-462-9029, which operates from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. To update your application or to have your questions answered, call the Helpline at 1-800-525-0321 or visit the FEMA/Territory Disaster Recovery Center at the Sion Farm Commercial Center, Queen Mary Highway, St. Croix from 9:00 to 7:00 Monday through Saturday.