WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Federal disaster aid for the U.S. Virgin Islands was authorized today to help families and businesses recover from the effects of Hurricane Lenny, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said President Clinton authorized the assistance under a major disaster declaration issued for the territory this afternoon following a review of damage assessment data submitted by the agency. The declaration covers damage to private and public property from Lenny, which began buffeting the territory with and hurricane-force winds and torrential rains on November 17.
The action follows the President's emergency declaration of November 17 that released federal resources to help meet immediate critical needs and pay part of the cost for requested emergency work undertaken by the federal government.
Under today's declaration, Witt said affected residents and business owners are eligible to apply for federal assistance on the islands of St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.
The assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, minor home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.
Additionally, Witt said federal funds will be provided for the territorial government to pay 75 percent of the eligible cost for debris removal, emergency services related to the hurricane, and restoring damaged public facilities. The declaration also makes cost-shared funding available to the government for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks.
Michael Byrne, of FEMA's regional office in New York City, was named by Witt to coordinate the federal recovery effort. Bryne said residents and business owners who sustained hurricane losses on the designated islands can begin the disaster application process on Wednesday, November 24, by calling 1-800-462-9029, or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.