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Wed Mar 27, 2019, 07:31 PM

Unpaid workers and complaints of shoddy construction plague hurricane recovery on U.S. Virgin Island

Source: Washington Post

Unpaid workers and complaints of shoddy construction plague hurricane recovery on U.S. Virgin Islands

By Tim Craig March 27 at 1:47 PM

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands — After back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes blew through here in fall 2017, Russell Bryan joined thousands of Americans who rushed to “chase dreams and promises” of big paychecks from the federal reconstruction effort.

A contracting firm said his crew would split about $50,000 for their work on 89 properties. So Bryan arrived with 10 friends and relatives last summer to repair blown-in doors and busted window frames and install FEMA-funded roofs, at times working up to 12 hours a day.

But the money never arrived, and Bryan could barely afford the ice water he needed to work under the blazing Caribbean sun. The 27-year-old had to call his mother and plead for a plane ticket home.

“I felt stranded,” Bryan said after he climbed down from the roof on his final day on the job earlier this month. “If I stayed here, as a guy looking for his money, it’s nothing but trouble.”

Frustration has consumed the Virgin Islands amid a wave of complaints about unpaid bills, broken promises and shoddy work in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. In one case, the tension culminated in an armed standoff over allegations of unpaid contractors.

The discord has cast light on how the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Virgin Islands government and two private multibillion-dollar engineering companies are managing the recovery, and the extent to which the financial windfall is filtering down to the sweaty workers doing much of the manual labor.

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Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/unpaid-bills-complaints-and-shoddy-workmanship-plague-recovery-efforts-on-us-virgin-islands/2019/03/24/c567c0a0-4695-11e9-8aab-95b8d80a1e4f_story.html

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