Thursday October 26th
We haven’t sent a newsletter in a while, due to the continuing communications “void” after the storm – and the need to keep communicating here on St. John using our Coral Bay Community Council voice. We keep expecting cell service and real wifi to be delivered to Coral Bay by AT&T and Broadband VI and by several disaster relief nonprofit organizations working hard on St. John – but they all continue to run into parts issues and operational problems that they did not anticipate – so “waiting” is the key word for our Coral Bay populace. Right now, Text to cell phone numbers, occasional WIFI calling and short emails do get through at the one WIFI point at the Coral Bay Firestation. Don’t expect people to be able to use weblinks, unless they are going all the way to St. Thomas – where smart phones and computers are working pretty well. Cruz Bay is so -so, but intended to improve shortly. Red Hook is pretty good.
You may know more than we do about the overall conditions in the VI, since we cannot routinely see any of the on-line or other news sources.
The Coral Bay Community Council office is in a building that will be getting a donated generator because FEMA will have a Disaster Recovery Center to serve people in the building, CBCC is running a contributed goods distribution center and because CBCC will offer a full access WIFI point for people in Coral Bay – using our computers or your own – as soon as the generator and WIFI capacity reaches us.
Check CBCC’s facebook page for updated info on businesses in operation (as well as business Facebook pages)– a few highlights below:
Mail is starting to flow again, and more businesses are open in Coral Bay. Connections East and Keep Me Posted are open and can only accept stamped mail right now to go out. (probably not outgoing packages yet – due to post office constraints.) Mail and packages are being delivered.
Donated generators are being installed at the two grocery stores – which are still not fully operational. This has been labelled a Priority. The Bloomberg Foundation Team and Kenny Chesney Foundation are taking this responsibility – as well as repairs to some of the business establishments and some people’s homes – according to the recommendations of their hired disaster specialists – how to get St. John running again.
Oasis is serving food from 11-5 daily, Wok on the Beach restaurant (old Voyages building) is serving Breakfast 7-11. Lunch – dinner 11-5. Thirsty Donkey has happy hour 2-5 daily. And Indigo Grill will open shortly.
Vanessa’s Mumbo Jumbo store is reopening so you can buy t-shirts and clothes, etc. Skinny Legs is “working on it.. “
BOATERS: If your boat was beached or sunk in Coral Harbor or elsewhere in Coral Bay – but not Hurricane Hole – please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org which is being monitored by the Coast Guard. You can also call 340-423-6353. A flyer with detailed info can be picked up at the CBCC office and will be sent via email shortly. The Coast Guard needs to know your intentions for the boat – and you don’t have to decide right away – just let them know which boat and how to contact you – to start right now.
If your boat was beached or sunk in Hurricane Hole or elsewhere in National Park, please do the same thing to this corrected email address: Caribbean_recovery@NPS.gov. More detailed info will be emailed shortly for all boaters.
Thank you to everyone who has made donations thus far to the Coral Bay Community Council and to other organizations for “hurricane relief”. And thank you to those who have brought down a suitcase of requested donated goods – like solar and battery lanterns and extension cords and more. And to those people who have reached out to individuals who need help in Coral Bay—and addressed their needs directly. It is all of these gifts that help all of us here continue to strive to work together – in a positive manner — to recover. http://coralbaycommunitycouncil.org/ to donate or learn new things about CBCC.
Cruz Bay “downtown” is supposed to be getting electric power from St. Thomas this week – and it will continue out towards the Myra Keating clinic. So many of the Cruz Bay restaurants and other businesses will be normalizing pretty quickly now.
We are told by WAPA and the Governor that there will be a backbone of electricity in Coral Bay by Christmas and some neighborhoods then or soon after. A number of rental villas are “ready to go” –as soon as power is restored or owners get reliable generator/solar power. Please tell your friends that they will be able to enjoy a St. John Vacation this winter – just wait a little while to book – so you can see what your choices are. Beaches are already open for swimming, and Reef Bay trail is being cleared… more each day… And the views are incredible already!
The toll on the wildlife – particularly birds that eat native berries and fruits – is significant. But it is gratifying to see flowers popping up along the roadside, even flamboyant trees – at this unusual time of the year as their biological clocks say “reproduce…recover… recreate nature’s bounty…and beauty!”
Help restore native vegetation in your home garden – stop by CBCC’s office for a free copy of the book “Landscaping for Erosion Control” or see it on our website here: http://coralbaycommunitycouncil.org/landscaping-sediment-reduction/ Many of these recommended plants provide berries and fruits for birds and other creatures.
Generator Use – Please be Very Safe. Do not refuel while the generator is running, or when it is hot. The smartest time is before you use it each time – when you check fuel level and oil. Also please respect others trying to sleep and don’t run your generator all night. Waste oil – you will be changing oil after 5 to 10 hours (very important) – and then at regular intervals – according to your manual. Please read closely so your generator will last! Save the waste oil – do not pour on the ground or put in regular trash. We are arranging for an environmentally safe disposal site with EPA – hopefully in Coral Bay!
For all of you who are off-island now: We are all “camping” in our homes, or partial homes, and it will be like this for several more months. So if you are coming down soon, be prepared for this reality in Coral Bay. Around Christmas time it should start getting better.
Saturday, December 9th was originally going to be the CBCC Bizarre Bazaar date. Instead there will be a scaled down version combined with CBCC’s “Annual Meeting” – which has always been a potluck. Whatever we do –it will be a fun celebration for all of us in Coral Bay. We need some volunteers to help with this– and make it a great day. Stop by the CBCC office and speak to Michelle Bransom of our staff — who has been a champion through this whole recovery operation for Coral Bay at our office.
That’s all for now….
Living strong …
Sharon Coldren and your CBCC board and staff
Tuesday October 24th
Monday October 23rd
Post Irma: Coral Bay to East End Video by Jenn Manes with introduction by Sharon Coldren our Volunteer President of Coral Bay Community Council.
Sunday October 22nd
10-22-2017 SJCF-VOAD Notices Part 4: FEMA Updates and News for Individual and Business Support
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to coordinate the federal response effort, working with the territorial government, federal and local partners as well as the private sector and voluntary organizations to help restore essential services to the islands and meet survivors’ recovery needs.
The initial efforts at rebuilding our Virgin Islands will be supported by FEMA grants and loans, insurance proceeds, and charitable donations. Physically rebuilding our community is one of the important tasks ahead. The local press reports estimates of infrastructure and economic loss exceeding $5.5 billion dollars. If accurate, it suggests that Irma and Maria, in a period of little more than 48 hours destroyed 584 days of economic productivity.
Survivors of hurricanes Irma and Maria in the U.S. Virgin Islands have until December 18 to register for assistance with FEMA. FEMA has granted the territorial government’s request to extend the deadlines and make the deadline the same for both disasters. “We understand that the ongoing communications challenges and power outages have made it difficult for some Virgin Islanders to register with FEMA, and we want to ensure everyone has an opportunity,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer William Vogel.
Survivors who have connectivity may register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or by phone at 800-621-3362. Individuals who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY should call 800-462-7585 directly. Those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS) may call 800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (local time) seven days a week. Operators are standing by to assist survivors in multiple languages.
Survivors may be eligible for grants to repair and rebuild their homes and/or replace essential personal property. FEMA grants do not have to be repaid, but they cannot duplicate benefits from other sources, such as insurance coverage. FEMA assistance is nontaxable and will not affect eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid or other federal benefits.
The extension also gives survivors more time to apply for low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the federal government’s primary source of money for long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or damaged personal property.
Survivors may visit a Disaster Recovery Center, call SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 or visitwww.sba.gov/disaster for more information about disaster loans. You may also send an email with questions email@example.com. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may call 800-877-8339. Applicants may apply online using SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.
FEMA recovery specialists are also setting up the Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) to help residents face to face with information and questions about their registration. Cruz Bay location is the VI Legislature building and in Coral Bay at the Town & Country Building across from the Fire Station. Details on opening days and times to be announced.
Recovery specialists from FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are available to provide information on the types of help available, assistance with filling out applications and answer questions. The center will offer one-on-one support to homeowners, renters and small-business owners as a result of the major disaster declarations stemming from the hurricanes. Representatives from the SBA are providing information about low-interest disaster loans to individual survivors, as well as businesses, to repair or rebuild their homes. You can find them at the Nation Park Dock Gazebo from 9am-4pm Monday – Friday.
The SBA program offers low interest loans and offers loans for renters and homeowners for physical losses to buildings and rental property. Loan amounts are up to $200,000 for individuals depending on damages. Staff is on hand to intake new people. This is not FEMA registration. Homeowners need to have their FEMA number to apply for a loan, however, business owners don’t have to have a FEMA number first.
FEMA is committed to working with the U.S. Virgin Islands government, survivors and partners across the whole community to help restore and rebuild. FEMA housing inspectors have been visiting neighborhoods across the territory to verify hurricane damage as an important step in getting more assistance to survivors. With nearly 2,700 home inspections now complete FEMA has authorized more than $1.4 million in survivor housing assistance. Word is also spreading about SBA low-interest disaster loans as well. So far, survivors have been approved $4.6 million in disaster loans to repair and rebuild their homes. FEMA’s Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) and Disability Integration teams have been fanning out across the islands for weeks, meeting survivors, helping them register for assistance and providing answers to their questions. DSA personnel have met with more than 13,000 people and registered nearly 7,000 for FEMA assistance territory wide.
Because of the severe challenges on the islands, FEMA activated its Critical Needs Assistance program, which gets emergency funding into the hands of survivors as quickly as possible to take care of urgent needs, such as food, medical care and transportation. So far, nearly $2.5 million is going to survivors for critical needs. This is in addition to repair grants or housing assistance they may receive.
Time is running out for Virgin Island hurricane survivors to sign up with Operation Blue Roof for free temporary roofing repairs to their homes. Friday, November 3, is the final day for residents on all U.S. Virgin Islands to apply. ROEs are being collected at the Legislature building 9am-12pm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for Operation Blue Roof. There is also a team in working out of Coral Bay. Bring a photo identification, a property tax bill and, if possible, a photograph of the damaged roof for property identification.
Operation Blue Roof is carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in partnership with FEMA and the U.S. Virgin Islands government to provide homeowners affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria with fiber-reinforced blue plastic sheeting to cover their damaged roofs until permanent repairs can be made. USACE has received more than 4,106 requests for assistance and covered 893 homes and facilities with the blue plastic reinforced sheeting.
Survivors are warned to be aware of scams. Operation Blue Roof is a free service. If survivors are asked to pay, they are not dealing with USACE’s Operation Blue Roof. Homeowners must sign a Right of Entry (ROE) form that allows USACE staff on the property to assess roof damage and install the plastic sheeting. It generally takes about eight days for a USACE representative to visit the home once the ROE is signed, and the installation will be done about two weeks later. Survivors can help USACE locate their residence by placing visible addresses or plot numbers on their property.
Operation Blue Roof should protect property for a minimum of 30 days and allow residents to remain in or return to their homes while recovering from the storms. The program is for primary residences, or occupied rental properties that can be repaired with plywood, plastic sheeting, and in some cases a minor amount of rafter replacement or repair. Not all roof types qualify for the program. If you know of a survivor who needs a temporary roof but is unable to visit a ROE Center, let center officials know the location so they can reach out.
Keep in touch with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for more timely assistance. Make sure you update any change in address, phone or banking information. Applicants may update their contact or banking information at a Disaster Recovery Center in their area, online at https://www.disasterassistance.gov/ or via phone at 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services can call 800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers are operating from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice. Operators are standing by to assist survivors in multiple languages.
Monday October 9th
See info below on disaster benefits. Also note that self employed small business owners are eligible for special FEMA unemployment benefits for many months (regular employees are too). You sign up through the VI Dept of Labor at the Cruz Bay Legislature building. MWF 10 TO 2PM. BRING ID, social security card, and something to show where you previously worked and can’t now.
Please encourage everyone to sign up with FEMA.. and don’t be discouraged by any initial responses that make it appear that you are ineligible for some kind of help…it is a long process and there are grants and/or loans to help almost everyone.
FEMA Housing Inspectors on the Ground in U.S. Virgin Island Neighborhoods
Issued By: VITEMA
Issued On: 10/7/17 1:02 PM
Affected Jurisdictions: Virgin Islands
THIS IS A Routine Press Release
FEMA Housing Inspectors on the Ground in U.S. Virgin Island Neighborhoods
October 6, 2017
ST. CROIX, Virgin Islands – Housing inspectors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are visiting neighborhoods in the Virgin Islands to verify damages caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Inspectors will contact survivors who have registered with FEMA. They will first call survivors in advance of the visit to set up an appointment. If they are unable to reach a survivor by phone due to the current communications outages, they may visit a residence without a confirmed appointment.
The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency has asked that survivors place visible plot numbers on their property to ensure inspectors can identify the property.
“A housing inspection is an important early step in the recovery process, as it helps us determine how FEMA and our recovery partners can best assist you,” said Federal Coordinating Officer William Vogel. “We urge residents to make themselves as readily available as they can to meet with their housing inspector.”
FEMA understands that some Virgin Islanders with property damage may have temporarily relocated off the islands. We are asking family and friends to let them know they should still register for assistance with FEMA and provide their current contact information. We will reach out to them to coordinate an inspection when it’s possible.
Inspections can only be done after survivors register. Those with damage to homes, vehicles, personal property, business or its inventory should register with FEMA. When applying, survivors will be asked to provide their current contact information so that an inspector can reach them.
When inspectors arrive at a home, they will display their official contractor photo identification. If the photo ID is not visible, it is important to ask to see it. This helps prevent fraud. Please be aware that FEMA inspectors do not charge survivors for their services or recommend specific contractors. If someone asks for money to inspect your home or promotes a contractor, it is most likely part of a scam.
Inspectors already have each applicant’s nine-digit registration number so there should be no need to ask for it. Survivors will however be asked to provide a valid driver’s license or other photo identification.
To speed the FEMA assistance process:
Ensure the house or plot number is clearly visible from the road.
Keep your appointment or notify the inspector if you need to reschedule.
· Be reachable. It helps to inform neighbors where you can be reached if your home is uninhabitable.
· Survivors who are displaced to other areas or islands may designate a relative, friend or neighbor to allow the inspector onto the property. But the designated person must be 18 years or older.
· Provide proof of ownership, such as a tax bill, deed, mortgage payment receipt or insurance policy with the property’s address. Renters must show proof of occupancy, such as a lease, rent payment receipt or utility bill.
FEMA will only provide assistance for a primary residence. However, survivors may be eligible for a low-interest disaster loan.
· If possible, provide photos of the damage that can supplement the images taken by the inspector.
An inspection generally takes about 15-30 minutes to complete. Keep in mind that inspectors do not determine an applicant’s eligibility for assistance. They just enter the information electronically into FEMA computers. Their job is to verify disaster damage, but they do not need to document all damage. They review damage to structures, major appliances, septic systems and wells.
No need to wait, begin cleaning up now. Survivors should begin cleaning up without worrying about losing out on disaster assistance.
“We understand that residents want to get their hurricane-damaged homes cleaned up as soon as possible,” said Vogel. “You don’t need to wait for us to get start cleaning up. Just be sure to document the damage.”
For those with Communication Needs. Disaster survivors with communication-related disabilities — those who are deaf or hard of hearing, blind or have vision loss and those with speech difficulties — may request accommodations to aid in communication. For instance, survivors may request an American Sign Language interpreter when registering. (They should also verify the accommodation with the inspector when contacted.)
Registration with FEMA can be completed online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, in Spanish at www.DisasterAssistance.gov/es, or by phone at 800-621-3362 or (TTY) 800-462-7585. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services may call 800-621-3362.
The toll-free telephone numbers operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice. Operators are standing by to assist survivors in English, Spanish and many other languages.
Friday Sept 28nd
Sharon Coldren and the CBCC board.
Friday Sept 22nd
Wednesday Sept 20th
Hurricane Irma did major damage to all St. John and St. Thomas, and two weeks later Hurricane Maria compounded that damage and also did major damage to our sister island St. Croix… which reached out to us on St. John and Coral Bay with private boat loads of assistance in the early days after Irma… and now need help themselves…that we cannot directly provide due to our lost boats and low provisions.
We will all come through this …stronger than before, with everyone’s assistance and donations. We are resilient. If you are reading this, please provide assistance as you can, and check back often as we detail specific ways you can help fill the gaps around the forthcoming government help. There will be a lot of help from FEMA and the Military, the US Army Corp. And private foundations…we just don’t know exactly what the scope of the help is, and what extra help we can collectively supply.
CBCC’s office has survived and has been offered to the above agencies as a site for their coordination of services. More on this as we know more..
I am writing this, as Maria passes over in a smartphone email to be sent when I get a connection .. to our webmaster, Jean Vance, who is fortunately off island right now. Please note that Coral Bay has no communications yet, still at least several days away. May everyone be safe.
Written Sept. 20th,
9-20 MARIA-IRMA update from SJCF-VOAD
“Many Islands. One Love” A few short and intermittent Satellite phone calls and posts have come in this morning after Maria passed south of St. John and made landfall in Puerto Rico at 6:15 this morning. The 11:11 AM VITEMA Alert reported steady strong winds up to from 35 with gusts up to 50 mph for the next few hours in STT/STJ. As expected there was, and continues to be, showers and scattered thunderstorms with flooding in guts and low lying areas. Storm surge reportedly left most of the barges on STJ inoperable. Residents are asked to stay inside while the 1st responders clear the roads and assist where needed. .Supplies were topped off before Maria, military and emergency responders are being redeployed, and communications are expected to resume in a slow but progressive manner. More news as connectivity improves.
We are getting many generous offers from people who want to come to the island to help in the recovery efforts. However, right now the few accommodations left intact are prioritized for displaced residents and federal disaster responders, who are also priority recipients of limited supplies of food, water, gasoline, etc. Please know that many aspects of this recovery will take weeks, months and even years ….and we WILL need you. Register online at https://voad.communityos.org/volunteer-registration-usvi-irma . You will be contacted once public officials and disaster relief organizations have had an opportunity to assess the damage and identify what the specific unmet needs are.
Persons interested in helping Hurricane Irma/Maria disaster response in St. John can best support the relief effort by making a cash donation instead of sending donated goods and services at this point in time. Cash donations to voluntary disaster relief organizations enables them to purchase exactly what is most needed – http://thestjohnfoundation.org/donate – whereas donated items require voluntary agencies to spend money and considerable time for sorting, inventorying, warehousing, and distribution of smaller shipments. We will get to the point of being able to do this for donations in the coming weeks, and continue to get and appreciate bulk containers of building materials and non-perishables.
The amazing St. Johnians who have self-organized and taken it upon themselves to help each other continue to be nothing less than awe-inspiring! We are creating an inventory to share with the stateside Adopt-A-Family program for St. John families and will share details as it comes together; this kind of support will be needed for months and we would eventually like to hook you up directly with these families so you can maintain a more long-term connection with them. Until we are able to ensure efficient mail delivery, and communications are improved, we gratefully rely on federal responders and bulk deliveries of supplies from private entities to sustain immediate needs.
We will be back in response mode for the next several days, while at the same time continue to focus on long term recovery with experienced partners who have bounced back themselves after similar disasters. Support coming in now will help us revive and rebuild in what is going to be a long road ahead.
To make a donation to the Foundation for St. John IRMA-MARIA relief efforts (PayPal is waiving all fees) go to http://thestjohnfoundation.org/donate
Director, St. John Community Foundation
USVI VOAD BOD; St. John VOAD Lead (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster)
Office: 340-693-9410 or Cell: 340-643-0019
Friday Sept 22nd