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Virgin Islands Storm Repairs May Be Jeopardized by FEMA, Contractors Dispute

Companies rebuilding storm-damaged homes in the U.S. Virgin Islands under a federally funded program say they haven’t been paid in months and are threatening to place liens on the houses.

The dispute highlights what critics call the slow pace at which the Trump administration has distributed aid money to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico following a string of devastating storms in 2017. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency says it’s simply following the steps required to ensure the money is spent properly.

In a letter dated Feb. 22 and obtained by Bloomberg News, the three companies — Polaris Engineering Inc. and Lamar Contractors LLC, both based in Louisiana, and SLSCO Ltd. of Texas — say they’re owed more than $60 million in “severely past due invoices, some of which are nearly one year old.”

The companies were hired to perform repair work in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which struck 18 months ago.

Without prompt payment, “we will have no choice but to assert our rights to assert lien(s) on their property,” the letter’s authors write. “We truly hope to reach an amicable resolution to this horrible situation.” None of the companies responded to messages seeking further comment.

A lien is a claim on a house which typically prevents the homeowner from selling or refinancing the property.

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