The U.S. Virgin Islands has a rich cultural heritage with museums, archives, libraries, archeological sites and historic districts across the territory. Many of these precious cultural resources sustained serious damage during hurricanes Irma and Maria – and time could be of the essence in making repairs and saving historical documents and artwork.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wants cultural organizations to know that recovery help may be available from a variety of sources. To take advantage of the full range of assistance that may be available, it’s important that these organizations submit a Request for Public Assistance (RPA) with the Virgin Islands Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) before the Nov. 20 deadline. The deadline is the same for both hurricane disasters.
“An RPA is a form that simply tells VITEMA and FEMA that your entity has sustained hurricane damage, and you are interested in learning about the recovery assistance that may be available,” said FEMA Infrastructure Branch Director Chris Hartnett. “Submitting the form by the deadline allows recovery specialists to walk you through the assistance options that could help preserve your piece of the island’s history and get your organization back on track after the hurricanes.”
Cultural organizations are advised to file a claim with their insurance companies, since federal assistance cannot duplicate insurance settlements. Once the claim is settled, federal recovery dollars may come in the form of low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) or grants from FEMA’s Public Assistance program. This is standard assistance that is available to eligible private nonprofit (PNPs) organizations after a disaster.
In addition, a national task force at work on the islands can provide information about a wider range of grants and specialized assistance for cultural organizations. The Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF), co-sponsored by FEMA and the Smithsonian Institution, is a partnership of 58 national service organizations and federal agencies created to protect cultural heritage from the damaging effects of
A task force representative will provide additional resources and outline potential grant opportunities for cultural institutions through information sessions to be announced soon on St. Croix and St. Thomas. FEMA specialists in Environmental and Historic Preservation and in Public Assistance, as well as representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), will also be on hand to discuss federal assistance programs.
Cultural organizations wanting information about the dates and locations of these sessions can go to www.Facebook.com/FEMAUSVirginIslands.
Cultural institutions could be eligible for federal assistance as PNPs if they can provide an IRS letter of 501 (c), (d) or (e) tax exemption or documentation from the territory that certifies that the organization is a non-profit, non-revenue producing entity that provides an essential government service.
To learn more about eligible essential and critical service providers and PNP eligibility, refer to the Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide on the FEMA website at https://www.fema.gov/public-assistance-policy-and-guidance.
Potential applicants can download the RPA form at https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/10145 and submit it to the following territorial government contacts:
St. Croix or St. Thomas-St. John:
Malinda K. Vigilant-Messer, Deputy Public Assistance Officer
Office: 773-2244 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Renata Christian-West, Territorial Public Assistance Officer
Office: 774-3244 or email@example.com