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Governor Bryan Attends Swearing-In Ceremony For New Public Works Commissioner Derek Gabriel

 

 

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. attended the swearing-in ceremony for new Public Works Commissioner Derek Gabriel, who was administered the oath by Virgin Islands Supreme Court Chief Justice Rhys Hodge at the University of the Virgin Islands on Thursday, June 3, on St. Thomas.

Commissioner Gabriel takes the helm of the Department of Public Works as the agency currently has a dozen major road projects underway and at various stages of completion across the Territory.

Last week, Commissioner Gabriel held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the completed Main Street Enhancement project on St. Thomas. Commissioner Gabriel’s wife, Keli, and daughter, Savanah, held the Bible for him while he took the oath.

Finance Department, Bureau of Internal Revenue Distribute $15 Million in Income Tax Refunds

March 26, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The Virgin Islands Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue sent out more than 6,000 income tax refunds to residents this week totaling more than $15 million as the Bryan-Roach Administration stands by its commitment to the people of the Virgin Islands.

The latest disbursement is a continuation of refunds from the 2018 tax year and part of Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s pledge to stabilize and restore trust in the Government of the Virgin Islands.

To date, the Bryan-Roach Administration has issued approximately $128.6 million of income tax refunds since Governor Albert Bryan Jr. took office in January 2019:

• $29.2 for the Fiscal Year 2019 months the Bryan-Roach Administration was in office • $68.7 million for FY 2020 • $30.7 million so far in FY 2021

“It is critical that the government pay the debts it owes to residents, and this Administration remains focused on that obligation even as we continue to maintain our economy from the financial ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Governor Bryan said. “We will continue to honor that obligation until we are able to bring the GVI current on what it owes the people.”

 

Motorcades Set to Celebrate National Vietnam War Veterans Day

March 24, 2021

The Virgin Islands Office of Veterans Affairs extends an invitation to all Veterans to join the motorcade in their respective districts to help celebrate our Vietnam War Veterans.

In an effort to discourage and prevent mass gatherings, per Governor Bryan’s mandates, Veterans will be asked to participate using their own vehicle. Both motorcades will begin at noon. Staging information for each district is as follows:

St. Thomas

Date: Saturday, March 27, 2021 Staging Time and Location: 11 a.m. at the northern end of the Four Winds Shopping Center parking lot.

St. Croix

Date: Sunday March 28th 2021 Staging Time and Location: 11 a.m. at the D.C. Canegata Ballpark.

The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 was signed into law by the 45th President of the United States. This legislation designates every March 29th as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

FEMA HMGP Awards UVI $4.1M

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands- The Federal Emergency Management Agency, through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, recently awarded up to $4,123,164 to the University of the Virgin Islands to retrofit the dormitories and library on the Orville E. Kean Campus on St. Thomas.

The wind retrofit of all five residence halls (North, South, East, West and Middle) and the Ralph M. Paiewonsky Library will encompass the hardening of structural components to include the roof, entry doors, window openings, gutters, electrical and mechanical equipment, lighting, security systems and other at-risk elements in accordance with current building codes. These enhancements will also be constructed to meet the 180 mph Design Wind Speed requirements for the USVI and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

"After the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the University's facilities were compromised," said Shirley Lake-King, Vice President for Administration & Finance and Chief Financial Officer at the University of the Virgin Islands. "This project will ensure that students can remain in the residence halls during and after the passage of a storm. UVI is grateful for the efforts of FEMA and looks forward to the impact that this grant will have on its facilities and improved conditions for our students."

A firm will be procured to complete Phase 1, engineering and design. Once complete, a final determination will be made on the actual cost, and a contractor will be solicited for Phase II, construction.

"These dorms have been home to many local, national and international students over the years. Ensuring that all students are safe and secure in the face of a disaster is critical to fostering a resilient community of higher education learners," Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Office of Disaster Recovery Director. "The project's goal of mitigating the risks posed by hurricane winds will allow the University to recover quickly and expeditiously regain normalcy after weather events."

 

Coast Guard, federal, local agencies conduct oil spill response exercise at the Limetree Bay refinery in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

march 19, 2021

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands – Coast Guard, federal and U.S. Virgin Islands emergency responders in cooperation Limetree Bay Ventures, LLC conducted an oil pollution response exercise Tuesday and Wednesday at the Limetree Bay refinery facility in Christiansted, St. Croix.

The government led functional exercise is a part of the National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (PREP) required under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

“These exercises are of the upmost importance to the collective preparedness and readiness of federal, local and industry emergency responders in cases involving a major pollution incident or a natural disaster in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Capt. Gregory H. Magee, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan. “The people of the U.S. Virgin Islands deserve the best plans and response to any given incident. To achieve this, it is crucial our Area Contingency Plan remains current and that our response community stays proficient in the execution of the plan during a real-world incident.

"Limetree Bay appreciates the continued partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, as we work to further our commitment to occupational safety and environmental stewardship," said Jeff Charles, Limetree Bay Vice-President of Terminal Operations. The restart of operations at Limetree has been made possible through a collborative relationship with our government partners, and investment in state of the art equipment and upgrades. This week's exercise is an important component of Limetree's comprehensive commitment to environmental protection and the health and safety of our employees, and the St. Croix community"

During the exercise, participants will deploy response equipment to contain a simulated major waterside oil spill at the Limetree Bay facility from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 17th. People should not be alarmed by the increased presence of emergency responders and response equipment at the facility during the exercise.

The U.S. Coast Guard alongside federal and local area partners conduct emergency preparedness and pollution response exercises every year as part of established multi-year strategies to build capabilities and improve readiness levels. Planning, training and exercising are important components of the nation’s homeland security strategy and response capabilities.

The goal of the exercise is to evaluate the ability of the response organization in utilizing the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Incident Command System (ICS) as a response management system to form a Unified Command (UC) and provide a competent response and initial assessment of the potential impacts of an oil spill. The exercise also seeks to validate the Limetree Bay Facility Response Plan and current notification procedures and processes listed in the Area Contingency Plan (ACP) emergency responders are to follow during an oil pollution incident in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Government House Details How President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Will Assist Virgin islanders

March 15, 2021

During Monday’s Government House weekly press briefing, Communications Director Richard Motta Jr. gave details about hos President Biden’s American Rescue Plan will benefit residents of the Territory during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to $1,400 stimulus checks paid directly to individuals, the American Rescue Act will help further the Government of the Virgin Islands’ efforts to fight the pandemic by providing additional resources to continue building out safe and healthy infrastructure in the schools so students can safely return to the classrooms. Additional assistance includes:

Supplemental unemployment benefits of $300 per week will be extended through September 6 The Child Tax Credit is temporarily expanded to $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17 and to $3,600 for children younger than 6. Additional funding has been authorized for the Paycheck Protection Program to issue small business loans with a special push to include nonprofits. Additional grant funding is available for the Virgin Islands Department of Education and the University of the Virgin Islands. Additional funding is available to help support child care facilities. Support for low-income families includes more funding for the Energy Assistance Program and to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children Public health funding to administer and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, provide contact tracing and buying testing supplies and personal protective equipment. Targeted support for bars and restaurants. Additional funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance program, which the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority will launch at the end of March. Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, raising the tax credit from $530 to $1,500 for adults without children and raising the income limit from $16,000 to $21,000

 

HMGP Awards DPW $2.5M to Mitigate Landslides Territory-Wide

March 13, 2021

U.S. Virgin Islands – The Federal Emergency Management Agency, through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, awarded the Department of Public Works $2,551,550 for a territory-wide slope analysis to identify areas at risk for landslides and to design and install slope stabilization systems.

Once complete, the project will remedy the effects of falling rock and mudslides in vulnerable areas throughout the territory. Estimations show that upwards of 200,000 sq. ft. of slope stabilization systems will need to be placed in moderate to high landslide risk areas, most of which lie in the St. Thomas/St. John district.

Derek Gabriel, Commissioner Designee for the Department of Public Works said, “This grant funding will allow the department to address a significant issue that affects our roadways after any major rainstorm, making the roads safe and secure for our motorists and pedestrians.”

The 2019 Territorial Hazard Mitigation Plan has identified potential sites that include roadways and heavily trafficked areas as a starting point for the project.

A firm will be solicited to conduct a slope analysis to pinpoint the most critical areas. When the locations have been identified, an engineering firm will design the type of stabilization methods to be installed. The size and configuration will be based on drainage, topography, subsurface conditions and soil/rock properties. A combination of soil nailing, rock anchoring, welded wire mesh facing, natural vegetation, concrete retaining walls and other slope stabilization methods may be utilized to ensure the most secure defense from extreme weather-related events.

“This funding will resolve recurring issues in areas where the land is unstable, causing rock and, after heavy rain, mud to fall into our roads and drainage systems,” said Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Office of Disaster Recovery Director. “The Hazard Mitigation Office works closely with local and federal agencies to determine gaps that can be mitigated utilizing sound project development and funding from FEMA to strengthen the territories infrastructure, minimize losses and recover faster when faced with natural disasters.”

The amount obligated to complete the slope assessment in Phase I is $700,500. After the successful administration of Phase 1 deliverables, Phases II and III which includes design and construction, will be obligated for $1,851,000 for a total project cost of $2,551,550. The project should be complete by the end of 2023.

Red Ribbon Week Contest Winners Receive Prizes

March 9, 2021.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The Virgin Islands Police Department, in partnership with the Virgin Islands Department of Education, issued new Google Chromebook computers with carrying cases to winners of the 2020 Red Ribbon Week poster and essay contests. The contests were held as part of the annual Red Ribbon Week activities during the last week of October. Students were challenged to create posters and essays showing or explaining how drug use and being brave enough to be drug free could impact students’ happiness and journey in life

In the St. Thomas/St. John District, essay winners were Jehaida Williams, a senior at the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, with her essay titled, “Drug Free” and Waniya Baig, a sophomore at the Charlotte Amalie High School, with her essay titled, “Be a Hero, Be Drug Free.”

In the St. Croix District, essay winners were Sahara Bryan, a sixth grader at the Alfredo Andrews Elementary School, with her essay titled, “My Plans for the Future” and Ajahni Rosario, a junior at the St. Croix Educational Complex High School, with his essay titled, “Being Drug Free: The Best Decision.”

The territorial poster contest’s top prize went to Conrad Phipps, a fourth-grade student at the Ricardo Richards Elementary School, for the winning entry titled, “Rise Above Drugs.”

Police Captain Sandra Colbourne, Officer-In-Charge of the VIPD’s Crime Prevention Bureau, commended all students who submitted entries into the contests, and congratulated the winners. “The students met the challenge to live drug-free lifestyles, and chose to tell their peers about it. They are making way for future generations of drug-free Virgin Islands students,” Captain Colbourne said.

Department of Education School and Community Relations Directors Karen Chancellor, St. Croix District and Jerae Forde, St. Thomas/St. John District praised students for their successful efforts. "We are very proud of your accomplishments and for taking this brave step to write and draw about the dangers of drugs and the plans you have for your future," Chancellor said. Forde added, "Continue working hard, remaining drug free and you will achieve all of the goals you have set for yourself. Congratulations!"

Google Chromebook prizes were not purchased with funds received from Congress's CARES Act; prizes were purchased through local and national funds appropriated to the Virgin Islands Police Department's Crime Prevention Bureau for Red Ribbon Week activities.

USVI Department of Human Services Temporarily Closes In-Person Services for SNAP and MAP Offices in St. Croix - Mars Hill Location Due to Confirmed COVID-19 Staff Positive

March 2, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services announced today that they are immediately closing the SNAP and MAP offices at the Mars Hill location in St. Croix due to a positive COVID-19 exposure of a staff member. The Offices will be closed from Tuesday, March 2, 2021 and will reopen later in the week.

Clients can still contact the St. Croix SNAP and MAP offices at: MAP • (340)772-7100 ext. 7113 – Special Services or ext. 7114 for Eligibility and Enrollment • stxmap@dhs.vi.gov SNAP: • (340) 773-7100 ext. 7018, 7017 or 7192 • certoffice.stx@dhs.vi.gov

Applications can still be brought to the Mars Hill location and placed in the drop boxes outside.

The Department of Human Services has activated its COVID-19 mitigation protocols to address confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff.

All staff in the DHS Mars Hill Offices have been notified to ensure their safety while DHS follows HIPAA guidelines to safeguard everyone’s confidentiality. The Department of Health is working to ensure that all close contacts are notified, are in quarantine and tested accordingly.

 

Governor Bryan Appointed as Co-Chair of NGA Community Renewal Task Force

February 27, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. was appointed to the National Governors Association (NGA) Task Force on Community Renewal during the organization’s 2021 Winter Meeting, which was held virtually on Thursday with keynote speaker President Joe Biden.

Governor Bryan, who will co-chair the task force with Missouri Governor Mike Parson, is the first governor from the U.S. Virgin Islands to co-chair an NGA task force.

In a statement issued Saturday about the appointment, Governor Bryan hailed it as an important opportunity for the U.S. Virgin Islands and a stepping stone for the inclusion of the insular territories in the policy discussions surrounding the issues confronting communities across the nation.

“The U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as the other insular territories, are often left out of the important conversations that lead to the reforms and policy changes to which many communities across this country benefit,” Governor Bryan said. “With this seat at the table, we now have the opportunity to ensure that the unique needs of the U.S. Virgin Islands are heard and ultimately addressed in national policy, especially in the areas of education, rural development and agriculture.”

Also serving as members on the task force are Governors Kay Ivey of Alabama; Doug Ducey of Arizona; Jared Polis of Colorado; Greg Gianforte of Montana; Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma; Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania; Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island; Jay Inslee of Washington; and Tony Evers of Wisconsin.

The Community Renewal Task Force has jurisdiction over a broad range of issue areas, including Workforce Development, Nutrition, Education, Criminal Justice, Agriculture and Broadband.

NGA has also created task forces on Economic Recovery and Revitalization and Pandemic and Disaster Response to coordinate bipartisan state and territorial efforts to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and lead economic recovery and renewal efforts.

he 2021 NGA Winter Meeting featured the nation’s governors discussing their ongoing work to manage the impact of COVID-19, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine distribution equity, and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Governors also discussed their responses to the winter storms in Texas and climate change.

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Governor Bryan Officially Reopens Newly Renovated La Reine Fish Market

Feruary 24, 2021.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. was joined by a host of other dignitaries and representatives of the USVI fishing industry at the ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially reopen the newly renovated La Reine Fish Market, which had been closed since 2007 for health and safety reasons.

Governor Bryan was joined by Senator Kenneth Gittens, a long-time advocate of reopening the fish market; Tionee Scotland from the office of Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett; Agriculture Commissioner Positive Nelson; Gerson “Nicky” Martinez, representing the St. Croix commercial fishing industry; and Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) Commissioner Jean-Pierre Oriol, whose agency spearheaded the efforts to meet Governor Bryan’s mandate of getting the facility back into operation.

“This Administration, we’re cutting ribbons. We’re finalizing. We’re closing in. We’re making sure when we put the final name on these things, we put them to rest,” Governor Bryan said. “But the important story here is not a story of credit. It’s a story of cooperation. It’s the story of what happens when the Legislature, the executive branch, commissioners, the Delegate and you, the people, work together.”

Governor Bryan also said the reopening of the La Reine market is part of his larger plan to support the Territory’s “blue economy,” which comprises the fishing community, as well as the charter and leisure boating industries, marine leisure businesses and his overarching Marine Industry initiatives in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“We have to grow and maintain all our industries, especially our Marine industry,” the Governor said. “For a long time we have governed with our back to the water. This Administration is looking to the blue economy in order to make our people thrive.

“We have to support the fishing now, but we also have to support the future of fishing as our young people come along,” Governor Bryan said.

The new facility will offer 18 individual stalls and 12 state-of-the-art cleaning stations that are available for monthly rent to licensed commercial fishermen.

The new market also will have an ice machine, ADA-compliant restrooms, plentiful parking for customer access and a 20,000-gallon holding tank for fish waste, replacing the previous 5,000-gallon tank.

The rent for individual stalls at the new La Reine Fish Market facility are $150 per month and cleaning stations are $75 per month. Persons interested in becoming a tenant can contact DPNR’s Division of Environmental Enforcement at 340-773-5774.

DPNR Commissioner Oriol said that in 2019, pre-pandemic, almost 105,000 pounds of fish, representing about $627,000, were pulled from the waters of St. Croix, and in 2020, those numbers rose to 133,000 pounds of fish worth about $800,000.

“Those numbers represent an industry that is fragmented all over the place and not centralized,” Commissioner Oriol said. “The completion of this facility shows that it is not just a renovation of the facility, but it demonstrates the commitment of the Bryan-Roach Administration to supporting entrepreneurship in the commercial fishing industry here in St. Croix.”

Commissioner Oriol said that in addition to providing local fishers a clean and secure environment to serve their clients, it also allows DPNR to conduct its mandate for port-samplings of landings in a centralized area of the island.

Commissioner Oriol said Wednesday’s reopening represents Phase 1 of a potential three- or four-phase project, and he said he has met with Agriculture Commissioner Positive Nelson to discuss the opportunities to provide the fish waste to farmers for fertilized and the possibility of putting an organic garden on the 5-acre fish market property.

“To the fishers of St. Croix that will operate out of this facility, I want you to know that this is your facility. If you take care of it, it will take care of you,” Commissioner Oriol said. “If you have ideas on improvements that will make a larger impact for your business, I encourage you to please speak with the staff that will be stationed here.”

 

DLCA RELEASES LATEST FUEL PRICE SURVEY

February 23, 2021.

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands - The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) is notifying the public of the latest territory-wide fuel price survey that was conducted on Monday, February 22, 2021 on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. Fuel surveys are designed to inform consumers of the most affordable fuel prices throughout the territory. Fuel surveys are included for comparative viewing and transparency.

On St. Croix, the lowest prices for self-service regular and self-service premium under $3.00 per gallon were found at Five Corners Service Station for $2.65 per gallon and One Love Service Stations -Golden Rock, LaGrande Princesse and Hannah’s Rest for $2.699 per gallon. The lowest prices for self-service premium were found at Five Corners Service Station for $2.759 per gallon and One Love Service Stations -Golden Rock, LaGrande Princesse and Hannah’s Rest at $2.799 per gallon. The lowest price for diesel was $2.799 per gallon at One Love Service Station, Golden Rock.

On St. Thomas, the lowest prices for self-service regular fuel under $3.00 were found at Petrus Smith Bay for $2.899 per gallon and Puma Bovoni for $2.999 per gallon. The lowest prices for self-service premium were found at Puma Bovoni for $3.39 per gallon and Petrus Smith Bay at $3.49 per gallon. The lowest price for diesel was found at $3.629 per gallon.

On St. John, the lowest self-service prices were found at Racetrack at $3.49 per gallon for regular and $3.59 per gallon for premium. The lowest price for diesel was found at Race Track for $3.87 per gallon.

 

THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES (DHS) CELEBRATES NATIONAL CAREGIVERS DAY WITH DONATION FROM ROTARY HARBORSIDE

February 22, 2021.

(US VIRGIN ISLANDS) – The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services (DHS) celebrated National Caregivers Day with a gracious donation of 50 hand-stitched bags and sanitary supplies from The Rotary Club of St. Croix – Harborside.

Rotary Harborside President Lionel Downer presented the donation to the DHS Family Caregivers Program staff at the Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged on St. Croix alongside other members of the club.

“It is our pleasure at the Rotary Club of St. Croix - Harborside to present these bags, lovingly hand-stitched by club Vice-President Sandra Gerard- Leung, for the caregivers at the Department of Human Services,” Downer said.

Downer, recalling from personal experience, said he now recognizes the vital role caregivers provide after his mother underwent triple bypass surgery. He described the essential daily activities that seniors often need help with that often go overlooked. “Who’s going to help with the shopping and personal care? Those are the kinds of things we don’t always think about,” Downer said.

Sandra Gerard-Leung, vice-president of Rotary-Harborside, spent several weeks hand-stitching the home-made bags with a variety of fabrics such as canvas, denim, burlap and other eco-friendly materials. Gerard-Leung, who was a caregiver herself, knew she wanted to do something for the Caregivers at DHS months into the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This gift is for the caregivers and the homemakers who go out every day to help someone else without thinking of themselves. It is a thank you to those caregivers and homemakers who still go out to help others during these COVID-19 times,” Gerard-Leung said.

Members of Rotary-Harborside also partnered with The Market STX and Rotary International - District 7020 to stock the caregivers with cleaning supplies such as bleach, paper towels, hand sanitizer, and dozens of other sanitation products.

“As a Rotarian and as Commissioner for DHS, Rotary’s motto, Service above self, is what we live by at DHS. I know for a fact that my staff goes above and beyond their job descriptions to provide care to our most vulnerable. They go into situations on a daily basis where they see things that most people don’t want to see. There are so many people that are alone now who are not able to care for themselves and have no family or friends. From the Department of Human Services, I’m extremely thankful from the bottom of my heart for the thoughtful gifts from Rotary Harborside,” DHS Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez said.

The Family Caregivers Support Program (FCSP) is housed under the DHS Senior Citizens Affairs Division (SCA) and offers support for individuals who care for family members aged 60 and above, as well as assistance for seniors aged 55 and above who care for grandchildren or other custodial family members in their care.

The DHS FCSP program aims to empower family caregivers by providing information on gaining access to services; offering support groups to provide emotional support and education about caregiving; respite care assistance; and supplemental goods and services to care for their loved ones. Family Caregiver Support Programs play an important role in helping to reduce caregiver depression, anxiety, and stress as well as enable caregivers to provide care longer, thereby avoiding or delaying the need for costly institutional care.

To learn more about the DHS Family Caregiver Support program, please contact (340) 774-0930 ext. 4484 (St. Thomas/ St. John District) or (340) 772-7100 ext. 7056 (St. Croix District).

THE DEPARTMENT OF LICENSING HAS RENEWED AN ORDER PROCEDURE TO REQUEST INCREASE IN FUEL PRICES

February 19, 2021

The Commissioner of the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, Richard T. Evangelista, Esq., has renewed a longstanding order setting out the procedure applicable to all wholesalers and retailers of fuel, including but not limited to gasoline, diesel, and propane fuel in the Territory as a pre-requisite to increasing their fuel prices.

The department's order states that any wholesaler or retailer of fuel wishing to further petition the Department for an increase above the amount authorized, may do so presenting invoices and other evidence justifying the proposed increased amount, and the additional increases shall not be permitted without the written authorization of the Department.

Gas stations that increase their prices without the written authorization of the DLCA can be fined up to $200.00 per day.

Commissioner Evangelista states that the order will remain in effect indefinitely or until lifted by the department.

Health Department Using New Treatment For Residents Diagnosed with COVID-19

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During Tuesday’s Government House weekly press briefing, Territorial Epidemiologist Dr. Esther Ellis provided details about monoclonal antibodies treatments that are available to some residents who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and that have proven to be 100 percent effective in preventing the progression of the virus’ symptoms.

The treatments are most suitable for treating mild to moderate cases in adults and in pediatric patients 12 and older who weigh at least 88 pounds who are at high risk for progressing to more severe illness or hospitalization.

To be considered high risk, patients must meet on of the following criteria: • Significant obesity • Chronic kidney disease • Diabetes • Immunosuppressive disease • Currently receiving immunosuppressive treatment • Are 65 or older• Are 55 or older and have cardiovascular disease or other respiratory disease • Are 12-17 and have a heart, lung or neurological condition or are obese or significantly overweight

These antibodies neutralize the virus and can potentially treat patients with COVID-19. The antibodies were identified from blood samples taken from some of the first patients who recovered from COVID-19 in the United States,” Dr. Ellis said. “All the patients report a dramatic improvement in symptoms within 24 to 48 hours.”

The treatments are not appropriate for everyone and have not been authorized for use in patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19; require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19; or those who require an increase in baseline oxygen due to COVID-19 or those who require chronic oxygen therapy due to underlying non-COVID- 19 related morbidity.

Vaccination Phase 1C

Dr. Ellis also announced that as of Tuesday, February 16, the Virgin Islands Department of Health has advanced to Phase 1C of the vaccination plan.

This phase includes individuals who work in:

• Water and waste management • Food services • Shelters and housing • Finance • Information technology and communications • Energy • Legal • Media

This also includes the continuation of those are eligible but who were not vaccinated in Phases 1A and 1B.

Vaccinations administered

• 11,079 first doses • 4,222 second doses • 15,301 total doses administered

 

Governor Bryan Directs Funding to Sports, Parks and Recreation to Repave Territory's Tennis, Basketball and Paddleball Courts

February 2, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced that he has earmarked a portion of funding in a grant from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Sports, Parks Recreation (SPR) to repave all the tennis, basketball, and paddleball courts in the Territory.

The project to repave and reline 42 courts at 21 facilities in the USVI is funded with a part of a $2.2 million Capital Improvement Project Grant awarded to the Territory by the Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs.

SPR Commissioner Calvert White said his department will oversee the repaving of 14 tennis courts, 20 basketball courts, and eight paddleball courts at 13 facilities in the St. Croix District and eight facilities in the St. Thomas-St. John District.

“The team and I at DSPR are excited to see this project come to fruition. This is the first step in rehabilitating our facilities, which will increase the quality of life for our community. We thank Governor Bryan for his endless support.”

The facilities that will benefit from the repaving project includes:

St. Croix: Reinholdt Jackson Recreation Complex, Rudy Krigger Recreation Complex, DC Canegata Recreation Complex, Isaac Boynes Ballpark, Emile “Gravy” Henderson Sports Courts, Glynn Recreational Park, La Grand Princess Recreational Park, Mon Bijou Park, Campo Rico Playground Park, Castle Burke Basketball Court, Williams Delight Basketball Court, La Valle Recreation Park, Pedro Cruz.

St. Thomas: Alvin McBean Recreation Complex, Ezra Fredericks Ballpark, Lionel “Smutt” Richards Ballpark and Basketball Court, Winston Raymo Basketball Court, Doris Hodge Tennis Center, Milt Newton Park (Bordeaux)

St. John: Orville Brown Basketball Court (Pine Peace), Cruz Bay Tennis Court.

Commissioner White said the Department f Property and Procurement is putting the contract out for bid for 30 days. Once a contractor is selected, the repaving project should be completed in 90-120 days.

“For too long, the government has pledged to provide recreation options for the Territory’s youth but has not maintained those same facilities,” Governor Bryan said. “The Bryan-Roach Administration has finally made good on the promise, and now our young people, as well as adults, will have safe, restored places to play throughout the USVI.”

 

Coast Guard seeks assistance identifying suspect vessel, vessel operator involved in hit and run incident in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

February 1, 2021

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands — Coast Guard marine investigators are seeking the public’s assistance to help identify the operator of a suspect vessel, a white-hulled center console boat, involved in a hit and run incident the night of Jan. 24, 2021 in St. John, near the National Park Service NPS and Caneel Bay fuel dock in Cruz Harbor.

Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment St. Thomas is conducting a marine investigation into this incident, which left two passengers, a man and a woman, seriously injured, one of whom remains hospitalized in critical condition. Coast Guard marine investigators are also coordinating and sharing information on the investigation with the Virgin Islands Police Department and Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

At approximately 9 p.m. Sunday, a small aluminum skiff reportedly was leaving Cruz Bay when a white-hulled vessel, approximately 20 to 30 feet in length, entered the harbor at a high rate of speed and collided with the skiff. One of the passengers from the skiff was thrown into the water and sustained multiple injuries, while the other was knocked unconscious with life threatening injuries. Good Samaritans' immediately began to render assistance; they pulled the injured passenger from the water and took the other passenger to the dock. The two victims were transported to the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital in St. Thomas.

The white-hulled vessel reportedly continued into Cruz Bay at high speed, turned around by the NPS dock and fled the scene without stopping to render assistance or to check on the other vessel. The vessel was later seen being placed on a trailer near the Cruz Bay boat ramp and towed inland on St. John. The white hulled vessel appeared to suffer significant damage to the bow as a result of the collision.

Governor Bryan Sends Down Legislation to Fund $2.6 Million in Infrastructure Projects on St. Croix

January 27, 2021.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Monday submitted proposed legislation to the 34th Legislature calling for a $2.6 million appropriation from the Communities Facilities Trust Account to be used to fund a number of infrastructure projects on St. Croix.

“This is just the start of a series of infrastructure projects the Bryan-Roach Administration is undertaking this year as we continue the Territory’s resurgence,” Governor Bryan said.

In the proposed legislation, the Governor earmarked the following projects to be funded by the $2,675,000 appropriation he is asking the Legislature to approve:

$300,000 to the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority for a pier at the King’s Alley Hotel on the Boardwalk in Christiansted. $300,000 to the Virgin Islands Port Authority for the dock at the Gallows Bay Marine Facility in Christiansted. $1 million to the V.I. Port Authority for a roll-on/roll-off ramp at the Gordon A. Finch Molasses Pier at Krause Lagoon. $400,000 to the Board of Directors of the Virgin Islands Government Hospitals and Health Facilities Corporation for the acquisition of Plot No. 7 in Estate Diamond Ruby for the reconstruction and expansion of Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center. $675,000 to the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation for the implementation of a drag racing strip at Plot 12-A-A VICORP land.

The Communities Facilities Trust Account was established as part of the agreement between Diageo USVI and the Government of the Virgin Islands that was ratified by the 27th Legislature in 2008 and signed into law as Act 7012 by Governor John deJongh Jr.

The Communities Facilities Trust Account receives a portion of the rum cover-over revenues to provide a source of financing for the development, operations and maintenance of community or sports facilities or urban development projects.

 

VIADC, Inc. distributed Taste of Home treat bags to 130 VI National Guard Troops

Washington, DC: The VIADC, Inc., a non-profit organization founded by Virgin Islanders residing in the metropolitan Washington, DC region provided over 130 treat bags to the men and women of the Virgin Islands National Guard (VING) on mission in the nation’s capital supporting the 59 th Presidential Inauguration on January 22, 2021.

Operation A Taste of Home, the brainchild of the VIADC’s Fundraising Committee, “was designed to give the visiting VI troops and fellow Virgin Islanders a reminder of home during their stay in the metropolitan Washington, DC area,” said Abigail Hutchinson, member of the VIADC Board of Directors and Chair of the VIADC Fundraising Committee.

VI National Guard troops along with troops from across the country were stationed in the nation’s capital to provide security, communications, and logistical support during the Presidential inauguration.

VIADC Vice President, Kenrick Roberts, welcomed the troops, thanked them for their service, and presented a certificate of appreciation to US Army Lt. Colonel Clayton Sutton, VI National Guard 786th Battalion Commander. Ms. Hutchinson presented the Taste of Home treat bags to the troops after adding her own welcome and offered words of encouragement.

The Taste of Home treat bags included a thank-you note, beef and saltfish pates, johnny cake, pick-up saltfish with crackers, assorted tarts, Vienna cake, bottled water and varied drinks in a reusable drawstring bag. Members of the National Guard were both excited to support the Presidential Inauguration and to be welcomed by Virgin Islanders on the mainland. One of the guardsmen, Sgt. Patrick from St. Croix noted that, “The event was great, especially since we’re getting some local treats to eat while we are here in the States. It’s also great knowing that the [VI] Association is here in the States to offer this and other support.”

Another guardsman, also from St. Croix, added that, “Ever since I joined the National Guard, I knew I wanted to be a part of something great. One of my biggest goals besides serving overseas, was to serve as a part of the Presidential Inaugural event. It is my distinguished honor to serve the Virgin Islands National Guard and the newly elected President of the United States in the biggest movement in history. I, SPC Clemrick Bryan, VING Military Police, am proud to say thank-you for those who’ve supported this movement; and it is truly a life changing experience being here. I am a proud soldier and Virgin Islander. HOAH!” Over 40 years ago, the VIADC was established to promote fellowship and foster a sense of belonging and loyalty to the Virgin Islands.

VIADC is known throughout Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia for its cultural activities including the Annual Summer Fish Fry, Picnic, and Winter Ball. The Association has held food drives for the homeless and hurricane relief drives for the USVI and other islands in the Caribbean.

$3.2M Obligation Will Demolish and Replace Dilapidated BMV Office on St. Thomas

January 21, 2021

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands- The Office of Disaster Recovery announces that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) has received an obligation of $3,231,954 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance Program that will provide for the demolition and replacement of the department’s main office on St. Thomas. Located in Sub base, the one-story building suffered extensive damage when winds, heavy wind-driven rain, overland flooding and tidal surge associated with 2017 hurricanes swept the area.

“The monies will allow us to build a longstanding user-friendly facility, one that we have been waiting for, for a very long time,” said BMV Director Barbara Jackson-McIntosh. “The community will benefit from adequate parking and a building that is handicap accessible.” Director McIntosh continued, “We’ve been working in less than desirable conditions for a very long time, so along with the community, the staff will experience a modern, up-to-date facility with the latest technology.”

The losses to the St. Thomas location amassed to over $5M, between FEMA direct funds and proceeds from insurance, the BMV now has sufficient resources to take the next steps to begin the design of the new facility.

Despite its current state, the building is still used to conduct drivers’ written tests, renewals and vehicle licensing and inspections. It will be rebuilt to accommodate staff, a waiting and test room, cashiers, and vehicle inspection bays.

“For far too long, residents and staff that utilize the St. Thomas office have had to endure sub-par conditions and reduced services,” said Office of Disaster Recovery Director Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien. “Through the support of our federal and local stakeholders, the BMV will finally begin to rebuild the St. Thomas location, construction should be complete by April 2022.”

The project to replace the department’s office on St. Croix is still under review from FEMA

Governor Bryan, ADA Coordinator Julien Henley Unveil New Accessibility Aids for Disabled Persons at Magens Bay Beach

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. and Americans With Disabilities Act Coordinator Julien Henley were joined by Cabinet members of the Bryan-Roach Administration at Magens Bay Beach on Tuesday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil new accessibility aids for disabled persons that are part of the Virgin Islands Accessible Beaches Initiative.

Also on hand for the demonstration of the AccessMats and WaterWheels, were Sports, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Calvert White; Department of Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez; DPNR Commissioner J.P. Oriol; V.I. Tourism Representative Luana Wheatley; Magens Bay Authority Chairwoman Katina Coulianos; and Sen. Steven Payne Sr.

The funding for the initial equipment came through the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

Governor Bryan spoke of when he injured his foot and was in a full cast and tried to go to the beach, only to find some of the difficulties and lack of access faced constantly by disabled persons.

“They say, ‘Who feels it, knows it,’” Governor Bryan said. “We need to make more of a commitment to making our public spaces more accessible to our residents and our visitors who are physically challenged.”

AccessMats are brightly colored vinyl mats that make portable walkways and allow easier access across the sand and to the water. WaterWheels are brightly colored vehicles capable of traversing AccessMats and packed sand that are designed to allow floating in the water.

“A disability is a possibility for everyone. It is important to give everyone an opportunity to have a complete life,” said Coordinator Henley. “It is an extremely proud moment to see that now persons who are challenged with mobility challenges will have an opportunity to go to a place where they can get into the water and not have to worry about the barriers that have plagued us for all these years.

Commissioner White said that two beaches per island will be designated to receive the accessibility equipment: Magens and Coki Point Beach on St. Thomas; Cramer Park and possibly Fort Frederik Beach; and two as-yet undetermined beaches on St. John.

VIADC, Inc. donates 10,000 disposable 3-ply masks to the USVI Department of Health to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in the territory.

.Washington, DC: The VIADC, Inc., a non-profit organization founded by Virgin Islanders residing in the metropolitan Washington, DC region donated 10,000 3-ply civilian masks to the Department of Health.

VIADC President, Nicole George, presented the masks to Commissioner of Health Justa Encarnacion on Friday. President George noted that VIADC members are committed to giving back to the community that nurtured them and to promoting positive change in the territory. Commissioner Encarnacion expressed her heartfelt appreciation for the donation adding that “This kind gesture from the Virgin Islands Association, DC shows that even from abroad, Virgin Islanders continue to look out for each other. The 10,000 masks will reach senior citizens and our first responders. On behalf of the Department of Health, we are grateful.”

Through its community outreach activities, the Department of Health will distribute 4,000 of the donated masks on both St. Croix and St. Thomas and 2,000 masks on St. John.

In addition to the mask donation, in the fall of 2020, the Association provided $1,000.00 in financial support to 10 students from the Virgin Islands under the VIADC’s Scholarship Program. The 2020 VIADC Robert Finch Memorial Scholarship recipients include the following applicants, their high school, and the college/university where they have enrolled.

 N’Kosi Benjamin, (Free Will Baptist Christian School), Florida Institute of Technology  Craig Benjamin, (Atholton High School), Towson State University  Jayme Colbert-Williams, (St. Croix Central High School), Florida A&M University  DeQuanda Defoe, (Ivanna Eudora Kean High School), Mary Baldwin University  Agathe Emeran, Charlotte Amalie High School, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University  Denali Georges, (Free Will Baptist Christian School), Liberty University  Michayeaela Hodge, (Charlotte Amalie High School), Florida Memorial University  Tamera Laurent, (Ivanna Eudora Kean High School), University of the Virgin Islands  Nia Sylvester, (St. Croix Educational Complex), Hampton University  Jaiel Wyllis, (Ivanna Eudora Kean High School), University of the Virgin Islands

At the close of 2020, the Association donated $200 to the St. John Community food Pantry and another $200.00 to the Reichold Center for the Arts. Over 40 years ago, the VIADC was established to promote fellowship and foster a sense of belonging and loyalty to the Virgin Islands. VIADC is known throughout Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia for its cultural activities including the Annual Summer Fish Fry, Picnic, and Winter Ball. The Association has held food drives for the homeless and hurricane relief drives for the USVI and other islands in the Caribbean.

Governor Bryan Welcomes International Charter Company The Moorings to Yacht Haven Grande on St. Thomas

January 14, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. welcomes The Moorings, an international luxury yacht charter company with locations throughout the Caribbean and around the world, to the company’s new location at Yacht Haven Grande on St. Thomas.

The Moorings, which also sails out of Tahiti, the Seychelles, the Mediterranean, the Americas and Thailand, will begin offering crewed charters throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands aboard it’s award-winning Moorings 5000 vessel, a five-cabin catamaran that holds eight people and crew.

The Moorings plans to begin offering bareboat and powerboat charters on its three-cabin Moorings 4000 sailing catamaran and its Moorings 433 power catamaran in the USVI in March, and the company said it plans to add more vessels to its fleet in St. Thomas.

“We’re honored and very pleased to be chosen as a destination by this prestigious charter company, which is known worldwide for its premier and luxury excursions in some of the most beautiful waters on the planet, now including the USVI,” Governor Bryan said. “The Moorings endorsement of the Territory as a prime luxury charter locale is a welcome addition to the USVI’s Tourism product, as well as the Bryan-Roach Administration’s toward expanding and enhancing marine tourism and the marine industry in the Virgin Islands.”

The Moorings has been providing 5-star sailing vacations since 1969, and it will be offering 7-day and 10-day itineraries throughout the United States Virgin Islands.

“We are thrilled to launch St. Thomas as our newest destination,” said Josie Tucci, vice-president of Sales and Marketing. “The USVI has long been a sought-after cruising grounds, and we are excited to offer this new, captivating destination to our charter guests.”

 

USVI Department of Human Services Addresses Confirmed COVID-19 Positive Staff Test at Knud Hansen Facility in St. Thomas

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services (DHS), today confirmed that it will be closing the Knud Hansen facility until Monday, January 11, 2021 after two employees confirmed positive for COVID-19.

With the notification of the confirmed COVID positive test, DHS, in conjunction with the Department of Health, has initiated emergency response protocols that include widespread self- monitoring and testing of those who were in direct contact with the impacted staff person, appropriate notifications and continued distancing protocols.

CURRENT ACTIONS BEING TAKEN

• Specific staff members of the impacted unit have been advised and asked to quarantine until they get a negative result from testing. • A notification was sent to all staff advising of the COVID19 positive result of one of the team members. • DHS has arranged for testing of all DOH identified PUIs within the auspices of DHS through the Department of Health. • Cleaning and sanitization protocols, in line with Department of Health and CDC guidance, have been initiated.

DHS encourages all staff and members of the public to maintain CDC best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

• Wear your mask (covering your nose and mouth while in the workplace). • Maintain social distance.

 

DPW ANNAS HOPE COMPOUND CLOSED DUE TO ADDITIONAL COVID CASES

JAN. 6, 2020

ST. CROIX – The Department of Public Works advised the community on Tuesday, Jan.5, of the VITRAN - St. Croix office closure due to several confirmed cases of coronavirus. Since then, the department was notified of additional positive cases, prompting the decision to close the entire Annas Hope Compound throughout the rest of the week. The closure will affect the department’s Main Office, as well as VITRAN. Cleaning crews will sanitize all office spaces during the closure.

The Annas Hope Main Office is expected to reopen on Monday, January 11, while the VITRAN – St. Croix office will remain closed until further notice. DPW thanks the public for their understanding as it takes the necessary steps to protect its employees.

The department is urging the community to take personal responsibility and practice good hygiene to reduce their risk of contracting and/or spreading the coronavirus.

For more information on COVID-19, the new strain of coronavirus, please visit the USVI Department of Health's website, doh.vi.gov/coronavirus  or text COVID19USVI to 888777.

Governor Bryan Condemns Practice of Celebratory Gunfire, Praises Efforts of Virgin Islands Police Department on Successful New Year's Day Operation

01/03/2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan issued the following statement condemning the practice of celebratory gunfire and praising the efforts of the Virgin Islands Police Department for a recent operation that netted 17 illegal firearms and the arrest of eight suspects on weapons charges:

"There is nothing celebratory about firing bullets in the air and terrorizing peaceful Virgin Islanders attending church or enjoying their New Year's Eve festivities. As governor, I will not turn a blind eye to this senseless, dangerous, and illegal age-old practice and congratulate the Virgin Islands Police for a job well done on its response.

"The success of Operation Eagle Eye is another example of the commitment and bravery of our men and women in the Virgin Islands Police Department and an example of our administration's continued efforts to beat back the criminal element and remove illegal weapons from our streets.

"Our community is safer this evening because of the leadership of Commissioner Velinor and those brave officers who confronted those suspects and confiscated those 17 illegal weapons," Governor Bryan said

VIPD Receives $17.4M for Overtime and Emergency Work Executed in the Wake of the 2017 Hurricanes

December 21, 2020

U.S. Virgin Islands- The Office of Disaster Recovery announces the award of $17,451,154 from the FEMA Public Assistance Program to reimburse the V.I. Police Department for emergency work performed territory-wide after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

After the storms, the VIPD worked tirelessly to protect public health. Officers led patrols and participated in search and rescue, conducted traffic and crowd control, and monitored curfews in an effort to reduce immediate threats to life, public health, security, and safety.

“These awards are a result of over two years of effort by multiple entities to provide the necessary documentation to substantiate the Territory’s request for funding,” said Director Adrienne L. Williams- Octalien. “This funding is necessary to replenish sources that were used to cover these costs upfront.”

“The men and women of the Virgin Islands Police Department who stepped up to help and care for their fellow citizens during a time of real need deserve continued recognition. The FEMA team is very proud to play a role in awarding these grants and helping the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands take another step on the road to recovery for the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said FEMA Acting Recovery Director John Covell.

Over $6M was obligated to St. Thomas, almost $10M to St. Croix and over $1M to St. John to cover the cost of staffing, equipment, and materials.

“With this reimbursement, the men and women of the Virgin Islands Police Department can continue its business of protecting and serving our community,” said VIPD Commissioner Trevor Velinor. “We are grateful for this resource and will continue to protect and serve.”

 

ST. JOHN CUTS THE RIBBON ON ITS FIRST MAJOR RECOVERY PROJECT, GEORGE SIMMONS COMMUNITY CENTER

December 18, 2020

ST. JOHN, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — A beloved but storm-torn building on St. John, George Simmons Terrace Community Center, had its ribbon-cutting on Thursday with Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. doing the honors after a stem-to-stern renovation by the Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA) in partnership with the Office of Disaster Recovery.

At about 2,000 square feet in total, the building located in St. John’s Estate Adrian neighborhood may be small in size but it is large in the lives of local seniors, VIHA Executive Director Robert Graham said

“St. Johnian seniors are integral to the community fabric, helping to raise the next generation and working in many local businesses. Our board was in whole-hearted agreement to get this project done and done right,” said Graham

FEMA approved $83.1 million for recovery projects through its Public Assistance Program last September. Close to $950,000 of that was obligated to housing.

“The process of applying for and being reimbursed by FEMA is exacting, requiring thorough documentation at every step,” said Noreen Michael, Chairperson of VIHA’s Board of Commissioners. “I am proud of our VIHA team for accomplishing this.”

VIHA contractor Custom Builders of St. Thomas completed the renovation in seven months for $603,654, giving it a new roof, new ceilings and sheet rock, hurricane windows and doors, new lights and ceiling fans, air conditioning and insulation it didn’t have before, as well as a space for a planned computer facility, new bath and shower, and handicapped-accessible kitchen.

“We are excited to celebrate the fruits of VIHA’s labor to rebuild after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Commencing construction and the completion of the project are the focus for year four of the recovery,” said Office of Disaster Recovery Director Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien. “We appreciate the funding obligated from FEMA in November 2019, and applaud the VIHA for its perseverance in navigating the federal process to restore this much needed and anticipated facility.”

Built in 1985, the Center first served a 25-unit public housing community, George Simmons Terrace. In 1996, the residents were given an opportunity to purchase the homes; many still live in them today. The Center took on a new role in 2008 as a senior facility run by the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services, whose staff are eager to return.

“It is difficult to adequately express how critical this collaborative effort to rebuild and re-open the Center is,” said Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez. “It has been the heartbeat of the St. John community and our seniors for many, many years.”

The DHS Adrian Senior Center is where the agency provided warm, nutritious meals and activities to promote the seniors’ physical and mental health, Causey-Gomez explained.

“Losing it was devastating. We applaud the VI Housing Authority and all the other government agencies involved who recognized the need to prioritize this recovery project,” she said.

s many as forty seniors, ages 60 to 92, were regular Center visitors before both hurricanes destroyed the building, according to DHS Assistant Commissioner Michal Rhymer-Browne.

"The reconstructed facility gives our St. John Seniors a wonderful space to return to and honors their strength and foundational contributions, especially in the midst of this distressing and isolating pandemic,", Rhymer-Browne said.

The Center represents the first major recovery project for St. John on the Governor’s top 100 list, as well as the first major recovery project for the Virgin Islands Housing Authority.

Others will soon follow, not only here, but across the Territory as millions of dollars in FEMA obligations and HUD Community Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds are released.

On St. Thomas, Tutu High Rise residents who suffered the loss of 300 units of housing will see the first replacement project -- a brand new apartment community at Estate Donoe -- break ground this January, Chairperson Michael said.

More recovery projects will follow in quick succession on St. Croix: the rehabilitation and revitalization of rental apartments at Walter I.M. Hodge Pavilion, 110 apartments at D. Hamilton Jackson Terrace, 26 apartments at Alphonso “Piggy” Gerard Place; the new construction of 128 senior apartments and 185 multi-family apartments at a newly purchased site in Stony Ground; and at William’s Delight Villas, the rehab of 100 single-family homes with improvements to allow for possible homeownership. On St. Thomas, with the demolition of the 1st five buildings at Estate Tutu underway, the new master planned Tutu community will include approximately 262 new residential apartments, a community center and outdoor recreation facilities.

“It has taken a long time and a lot of sacrifices and hard work to arrive at this point in the recovery effort,” Chairperson Michael said. “I believe the major projects now at hand will help the Territory’s residents recover from the hurricanes not only physically, but also in spirit.”

DLCA ANNOUNCES RACK RATES AND FUEL PRICE SURVEY

December 16, 2020.

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) is notifying the public of the latest rack rate prices issued by Gulf Oil at Lime Tree Bay Terminal effective December 14 – December 16, 2020. Rack rate prices have increased. The new rack prices with the .14/gallon tax are $1.9000 regular which shows an increase of $0.05. Premium is at $1.9400, an increase of $0.05 and diesel (ULSD) is at $1.9100 for an increase of $0.04. Additionally, DLCA territory-wide fuel price survey was conducted on Monday, December 14, 2020 on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. Fuel surveys are included for comparative viewing and transparency.

On St. Croix, the lowest prices for self-service regular was found at Freedom City Service Station, LLC for $2.579 per gallon and Ziggy’s Island Market, LLC at $2.599 per gallon. The lowest prices for self-service premium fuel was found at Ziggy’s Island Market, LLC for $2.699 per gallon and Super Tank Service Station at $2.759 per gallon. The lowest price for diesel was $2.570 per gallon at Super Tank Service Station.

On St. Thomas, the lowest prices for self-service regular fuel were found at 1st Stop, 1st Stop Frydenjoj, Gas Works, Ali Baba, Petrus Polyberg, Race Track and Puma Bovoni at $2.899 per gallon. 1st Stop, 1st Stop Frydenjoj, Gas Works, Ali Baba, Race Track and Puma Bovoni has the lowest price for self-service premium at $3.399 per gallon. 1st Stop and 1st Stop Frydenhoj has the lowest price for diesel at $3.299 per gallon.

On St. John, the lowest self-service prices were found at Racetrack at $3.29 per gallon for regular and $3.76 per gallon for premium. E-C Gas Station came in second with the lowest for self-service at $3.34 per gallon for regular and $3.46 per gallon for premium. The lowest price for diesel was found at RaceTrack for $3.76 per gallon.

FEMA Issues Results of FY 2018 Audit

December 15, 2020

U.S. Virgin Islands- The Territory received notification on December 7, 2020 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the findings of the FY 2018 Validate as You Go (VAYGo) audit of recovery projects from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The audit reviewed projects from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018.

The initial result of the audit, dated October 1, 2019, indicated $516M of potential improper payments and a decision to implement manual drawdown restrictions. Since then, a series of meetings and correspondences between the Territory and FEMA have taken place to provide requested information in an effort to lift manual draw requirements.

The Office of Disaster Recovery (ODR) submitted documentation outlining updated policies and staffing plans that have been accepted by FEMA. "Since its establishment in February of 2019, ODR immediately went to work on implementing measures to monitor the flow of funding from all federal recovery sources," said Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien Director of the ODR. "The expenditures in question occurred early in the disaster and did not go through the rigorous process established since the office took the recovery helm. I will continue to work with FEMA's financial team to ensure the most accurate accounting of the territory’s projects."

FEMA’s findings suggest an overall lack of supporting documentation for the transactions executed by the Virgin Islands Departments of Public Works, Human Services, Education, VI Territorial Emergency Management Agency, Waste Management Authority, Water and Power Authority, and VI Port Authority. As in standard practice and described in the letter, FEMA will issue a notice of "potential" debt to the Territory for $134,746,028. Once issued, the Territory has 60 days to appeal.

It is important to note the initial findings of potential improper payments were in excess of $500M. This amount has since been verbally reduced to $269M, which has again decreased by 50% according to the December 7th letter.

“Our administration continues to work closely with FEMA and our federal partners in the recovery and intends to appeal this decision within the allowed 60-day period,” Governor Bryan said. “While this decision is the result of a 2018 audit, I think it serves to underscore the complexity of the disaster recovery process and the efforts of our administration to meet the federal guidelines while making good on commitments made to contractors,” the Governor added.

At the time of this notice, the Territory has not received the notification of debt with the details necessary to initiate the appeals process. FEMA will meet with the Territory to discuss actions to monitor the effectiveness of the USVI's internal controls, expectations for future drawdown documentation requirements, and address any questions related to the notice of debt and rights to appeal

JFL Thanks The Lion Club, CHOP (Bar & Grill Restaurant) and Cost-U-Less for their Charitable Donations

December 12, 2020

The Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center thanks the Lion Club, CHOP (Bar & Grill Restaurant), and Cost-U-Less for their recent donations to the JFL team

Prior to leaving the hospital with a newborn, a family is required to have an infant car seat. Unfortunately for some, the cost of such may present difficulty. To extend this access, the Lion Club generously donated car seats—amongst other essentials, games and gifts — to the Pediatrics Unit and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

 “The JFL team wishes to express a hearty thank you to the Lion Club for their thoughtful gifts. The ability to use games and play for the health of our community’s children that need care at JFL is a worthy cause. We know that each item will be of great use to not only our team but the St. Croix Community as well,” JFL Interim CEO Dyma Williams said in a statement.

The JFL team also express their gratitude to CHOP (Bar & Grill Restaurant) for their show of support through a donation of one hundred (100) individually boxed lunches.

“As our healthcare workers continue to work tirelessly to ensure our safety during these unprecedented times, we appreciate CHOP for providing these hot meals for our JFL Superheroes,” Williams noted.

Cost-U-Less store on St. Croix provided 50 face shields for JFL team members. 

Anyone who wants to contribute to JFL's efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic to support patients and frontline healthcare workers may contact rlewis@jflusvi.org using the subject line DONATION.

Governor Bryan Issues Statement Regarding Senate’s Failure to Pass Debt Refinancing

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Following the 33rd Legislature’s failure to pass Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s proposal, which they had previously approved in September, Governor Bryan issued the following statement about his plan to refinance the government’s debt for a more favorable interest rate and immediate savings of $85 million to be used to shore up the Government Employees’ Retirement System and other government projects:

“While it is unfortunate that the Legislature passed up this opportunity, this proposal was just one of several initiatives we are working on to address the GERS insolvency and fund other critical government projects,” Governor Bryan said. “Of these initiatives, this proposal would have provided an immediate infusion of revenue to help stabilize the retirement system while we continue pushing forward other initiatives.

“In the meantime, my Administration will redouble its efforts for the other revenue-generating measures we have proposed, such as passing the Cannabis Act, and the Administration also is working tirelessly to come up with other solutions, which include restructuring the benefits package for new and existing retirees,” Governor Bryan said.

Governor Bryan also noted that Puerto Rico on Wednesday passed a similar measure for some of its bonds to be offered to the bond market for refinancing.

“The primary difference between the two debt financing proposals is that Puerto Rico will be refinancing unrated bonds, and the USVI is offering investment grade, which puts us in the position for a more favorable interest rate than the 3.75% they’re aiming for,” the Governor said.

“Although some members of the community still express doubts about the debt refinancing proposal for the USVI, this type of debt refinancing transaction is a safe and trusted way that governments at all levels increasingly are realizing immediate savings by lowering their payments toward their debt obligations,” Governor Bryan said. “Although the Legislature at this time does not have the desire to front-load the savings to infuse revenue into the GERS, it still makes sense to refinance the debt at these current low interest rates to achieve these savings.”

The Bryan/Roach Administration said it continues to be committed to transparency, stabilizing the economy, restoring trust in government and ensuring the disaster recovery is completed as quickly as possible.

Man Drowns at Brewer’s Bay Beach

ST. THOMAS, USVI – On December 4 at roughly 8:41 a.m., the 911 Emergency Call Center received a call, stating that a male was floating face-down in the water at Brewer’s Bay Beach. Officers traveled to the area and found the unresponsive male lying on the sand, and was advised that an individual had removed the man from the water.

Emergency Medical Technicians, who were on scene, concluded that the male did not have any vital signs. There were no apparent signs of foul play. Next of kin identified the male as 64-year-old James Bachelor.

The investigation into this incident continues.

Update 2: Coast Guard monitors final stage of oil recovery operations for three abandoned tugboats in St. Croix

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands — Coast Guard pollution teams Wednesday continue monitoring the final stage of oil recovery operations for the tugboat Cape Lookout and two additional abandoned tugboats at the St Croix Renaissance Group facility within Krause Lagoon in St. Croix.

“We’ve made significant progress in the last week and are now monitoring the final stage of clean-up operations,” said Chief Warrant Officer Daniell Lashbrook, Marine Safety Specialist Response and Federal On-Scene Coordinator Representative. “The Coast Guard’s main priority is to protect and return the environment and affected water to their pristine state. After completing a more in depth assessment of the situation, we extended our plan for the Cape Lookout to also remove any oil and hazardous materials from inside the two other abandoned tugboats, the Cape May and Cape Flattery, which also threatened to contaminate the environment.”

Since oil recovery operations began November 17, the National Response Corp. in St. Croix, as the Oil Spill Removal Organization hired for the project, deployed specialized dive teams to complete assessments. Cleanup crews used vacuum trucks, ISO tanks, storage tote containers and multiple skimmers to recover approximately 15,000 gallons of oily water from inside the Cape Lookout, approximately 90% of the recovered material being pure product. Clean-up crews also recovered approximately 8,000 gallons of oil product from inside the Cape May as well as 2,000 gallons of oil product from inside the Cape Flattery.

As the operation ramps down, crews from National Response Corp. and their subcontractor Resolve Marine will continue to monitor and recover any residual oil from the site and maintain containment booms placed around the vessels until deemed necessary. The recovered material is to be disposed of in accordance with local and federal environmental requirements.

To conduct oil recovery operations, the Coast Guard accessed the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. So far, clean-up operations are estimated at $475,000, as the investigation continues to identify a responsible party and the circumstances surrounding the incident.

At this time, there are no reports of affected marine or wildlife, Coast Guard on-scene personnel continue to monitor.

Following a Nov. 12 report from owner/operator of St. Croix Renaissance Group, LLP, Coast Guard personnel from Resident Inspections Office St. Croix, working in coordination with the Sector San Juan Incident Management Division, responded to the scene and confirmed oil coming from the tugboat Cape Lookout.

The Cape Lookout remains tied to a concrete platform at the facility partially sunk with its bow sticking out of the water, while the tugboats Cape May and Cape Flattery remain afloat and moored side by side just next of the Cape Lookout.

DLCA ISSUES 90 DAY MORATORIUM TO RENEW EXPIRED LICENSES

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) encourages persons with expired business licenses to immediately contact the department and arrange to make their license current.

“DLCA is willing to work with persons who have experienced economic hardship due to COVID- 19 related setbacks and have been unable to renew their license that has expired on or after March 13, 2020,” says Commissioner Richard Evangelista.

DLCA also encourages persons with licenses that expired prior to March 13, 2020, to contact DLCA within 90 days to enter into a payment agreement to make their license current. Although there is a penalty assessed for each month that a license is expired, the Office of the Commissioner has the discretion to waive some of the incurred penalty fees. To request a waiver of accrued penalty fees, one simply needs to submit a letter addressed to the Office of the Commissioner to request a waiver of penalties and to explain what setbacks caused one to fail to renew on time.

After 90 days of the instant moratorium, if necessary, DLCA shall begin to issue citations, hold administrative hearings and refer persons to the Department of Justice for prosecution. Whoever willfully fails or refuses to comply with the provisions of the DLCA statute shall be liable to a fine not to exceed $500 and imprisonment not to exceed 30 days or both. “DLCA wants to issue a current license to everyone who is operating a business. Compliance is simpler and more cost efficient than enforcement”, stated Commissioner Evangelista.

 

VA Home Loan Seminar – Learn How to Purchase or Refinance a Home Using Your VA Home Loan

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the V.I. Office of Veterans Affairs have teamed up to conduct a virtual seminar focused on educating the territories’ Veterans on the VA Home-Loan Guarantee Program.

Among topics to be discussed are Purchasing or Refinancing a home using the VA- guaranteed home loan, how to select a mortgage lender, and exterior-only VA appraisals during the COVID-19 national emergency.

Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Benefits, Office of Field Operations – Ms. Cheryl Rawls and Executive Director, Loan Guaranty Service – Mr. Jeffrey F. London will join Director Patrick Farrell in the opening portion of the seminar for remarks.

Veterans wanting to ask questions are encouraged to send those questions ahead of time by emailing them to info_va@va.vi.gov or by calling (340) 774-8387 or (340) 773-8387 and presenting those questions. In the subject line of your email please put “Home Loan Guaranty”.

“This is an event that has been long awaited by so many Veterans in the Virgin Islands. Now that we have brought it to fruition, it is just for Veterans to show up in abundance. It is time that we properly equip our Veterans with the requisite information to help them take the next step to homeownership” said Director Farrell.

Mortgage lenders are welcome in a listen-only mode.

Date: December 3, 2020 Time: 5:30 -7pm Please call 872-701-0185, Access code 7 6 1 8 0 6 8 9 8 #

 

Bureau of Motor Vehicles to Reduce Services in accordance with Governor’s Bryan Soft Shutdown of Government Agencies

November 27, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS— In accordance with Governor Albert Bryan Jr. soft shutdown of Government agencies, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will be reducing some services to the motoring public from November 30, to December 4, 2020. Director McIntosh and the staff of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles are implementing the following procedures to safeguard the community and the employees during this time:

• Vehicle Registration services, including our drop box system will be closed during this period. Customers who dropped off documents to the BMV prior to November 30, will be provided appointments to retrieve and pay for transactions. Customers are reminded to come to the BMV only at the appointment time. • Director McIntosh is still encouraging the community to take advantage of the bureau’s online vehicle registration process. The bureau will waive the requirement for inspection for any customer that renew their vehicle registration online. If customers need assistance in setting up an account or for technical assistance, please email the bureau at info@bmv.vi.gov. • Customers with driver’s license related services will keep their normal appointments, however, customers are reminded to come to the BMV only at the appointment time.

 

Governor Bryan Remembers Esteemed Educator Ruth Thomas

November 25, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. issued the following statement remembering esteemed St. Thomas educator Ruth Thomas, who passed away Monday.

“It is with a heavy heart that I extend my condolences to the family and friends of Ruth E. Thomas. Mrs. Thomas was a celebrated educator who dedicated her life’s work to the education of Virgin Islands students and the improvement of her community. She without question, left an indelible mark on the lives of generations of young people in our community, and in her time with us engendered the values of a generation of Virgin Islanders who exemplified stewardship and service to their faith, family, and community.

“Yolanda and I extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends and all in our community who mourn her passing.”

Governor Bryan to Go ‘Meatless’ on November 25 And He Urges All Virgin Islanders to Join Him🤦‍♀️

November 24, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has issued a proclamation declaring November 25 as “Meatless Day in the Virgin Islands,” a global initiative among the East Indian community that Dada J.P. Vaswani began in 1986.

The Governor pledged to go meatless on that day in solidarity with the Territory’s East Indian community, and he is urging all his fellow Virgin Islanders to join him as the spirit of brotherhood, unity, fellowship and compassion.

“I’m asking all Virgin Islanders to join me in this one-day ‘Pledge to Be Veg’ as a demonstration of unity and harmony for all mankind,” Governor Bryan said. “2020 has been a difficult year for all of us, and it has never been more pressing than now that we all come together.”

The day is celebrated on the birthday of Sadhu T. L. Vaswani, a noted educator, author and an early supporter of Mahatma Gandhi's Non-Cooperation Movement who promoted the principle of reverence for all life and is known to people around the world as the living embodiment of unconditional love.

In 1910, Sadhu Vaswani and his guru, Sri Promotholal Sen, sailed from Mumbai to Berlin to participate in the World Congress of Religions. He addressed the conference as a representative of India and expressed a message of peace and tranquility.

Meatless Day was established on Sadhu Vaswani’s birthday in 1986 to honor his philosophy and advocacy of vegetarianism. Across India on November 25, many slaughterhouses close for the day.

Governor Bryan Sends Formal Letters of Congratulations from USVI To President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Government Albert Bryan Jr. sent a formal letter from the U.S. Virgin Islands congratulating President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris for their victory in the presidential election.

Governor Bryan publicly congratulated the President-Elect and the Vice President-Elect on the Saturday following the November 3 election, after enough votes had been tabulated and they were declared the winners.

The letters will be kept in the National Archives and are part of the United States’ official historical record.

“I look forward to working closely with you and your administration to resume the progress we made during the Obama-Biden administration to restore economic growth, to create needed jobs by investing in our infrastructure and in our people,” Governor Bryan wrote. “And, not least, to eliminate the discriminatory treatment of our fellow Americans living in the insular areas of the United States.”

Governor Bryan also praised and celebrated VP-Elect Harris’ historic achievement of becoming the first black woman and Asian American to attain the vice presidency, and the highest-ranking woman ever elected in U.S. history.

“What a momentous and historic achievement! On behalf of the U.S. citizens and residents of the United States Virgin Islands, I offer my warmest congratulations on your election as Vice-President of the United States,” Governor Bryan wrote. “It was a stunning victory and, I truly believe, a portent of future progress in perfecting the American union during the next four years.”

In his letter to Mr. Biden, Governor Bryan also gave a nod to the President-Elect’s long-standing and close ties to the USVI.

“Yolanda and I would also like to take this opportunity to invite you and the First Lady to come visit and relax in America’s Caribbean Paradise as soon as you are able,” the Governor wrote.

The Governor also extended his invitation to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris and her husband.

“Yolanda and I would also like to take this opportunity to invite you and Douglas to come visit and relax in America’s Caribbean Paradise as soon as you are able. The President-Elect’s familiarity with the Territory can be your guide,” the Governor wrote.

The Office of Disaster Recovery, in conjunction with the Office of the Governor, announces the release of the 2020 Annual Recovery Progress Report for Hurricanes Irma and Maria

November 18, 2020.

U.S. Virgin Islands- The Office of Disaster Recovery, in conjunction with the Office of the Governor, announces the release of the 2020 Annual Recovery Progress Report for Hurricanes Irma and Maria. This year’s iteration marks the Territory’s forward momentum from September 2019 to September 2020.

The advances made to build a more resilient community are underscored throughout the report, particularly in the mandated priority areas of Housing, Health & Human Services, Roads, Schools, Utilities and Public Buildings. Also identified are the challenges the Territory faces as the Recovery moves into Year 4 and beyond.

“While Recovery is never fast enough, we have made steady progress in the 20 months of the Bryan Roach Administration and continue to chip away at the barrier to normalcy on behalf of the Virgin Islanders most affected by the storms’ impact. This report outlines our recovery goals and highlights our forward movement along the path to a brighter, more resilient Virgin Islands. It remains a priority of my administration to ensure proper stewardship of federal disaster recovery funds and the timely execution of projects,” said Governor Albert Bryan, Jr.

As a branch of the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority, the Office of Disaster Recovery continues to fulfill its mission to serve as the center of coordination for disaster recovery funds throughout the Territory.

As a branch of the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority, the Office of Disaster Recovery continues to fulfill its mission to serve as the center of coordination for disaster recovery funds throughout the Territory.

“The Office of Disaster Recovery is closely monitoring $3.6 billion of our expected $8 billion in funding to date,” said Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Director of the Office of Disaster Recovery. “As we enter the fourth year of Recovery in the Virgin Islands, the Territory expects to receive additional funding that will support efforts to get more recovery projects started. Projects related to public buildings will move into the design stage, and other projects will begin to break ground for construction.”

The report can be viewed electronically at http://www.usviodr.com/category/reports/. If you should have any questions, please contact the Office of Disaster Recovery via email at info@usviodr.com.

 

Coast Guard responds to oil discharge from partially sunken tugboat in St. Croix

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands — Coast Guard pollution teams continue responding Tuesday to an active oil discharge from the partially sunken and abandoned tugboat Cape Lookout within Krause Lagoon in St. Croix.

The amount of oil discharged from the Cape Lookout remains unknown, while the maximum potential discharge based on the size of the vessel fuel and lube oil tanks is approximately 48,000 gallons of fuel and 2,000 gallons of lube oil. It is unknown how full both tanks are at this time.

“Due to the immediate pollution threat this vessel represents to the environment and surrounding area, the Coast Guard is working to open the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to hire an Oil Spill Removal Organization to conduct clean-up operations,” said Lt. Cmdr. Alberto Martinez, Sector San Juan Incident Management Division chief. “Once an OSRO is hired, the company will provide specialized personnel and equipment to recover any oil, fuel or potential hazardous materials that may have been discharged into the water or remain aboard the vessel.”

Following a Nov. 12 report from owner/operator of St. Croix Renaissance Group, LLP, Coast Guard personnel from Resident Inspections Office St. Croix, working in coordination with the Sector San Juan Incident Management Division, responded to the scene and confirmed oil coming from the 97-foot tugboat. The Cape Lookout remains tied to a concrete platform at the facility partially sunk with its bow sticking out of the water.

At this time, approximately 85% of the discharged oil remains contained within the absorbent and containment boom that is surrounding the vessel, while the remaining material remains within an area that extends approximately 50 yards from the vessel.

“Our main priority is to complete the hiring of the OSRO to stop the discharge of oil and take the necessary actions to properly clean-up and eliminate any further threat of pollution from this vessel,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Webster, Coast Guard Marine Science Technician at RIO St Croix. “As clean-up operations take place, we will continue to investigate and work with the National Pollution Funds Center to determine a responsible party.”

 

Governor Bryan Asks Residents to Gather Safely and Responsibly for the Holidays

November 16, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During Monday’s weekly press briefing, Government House Communications Director Richard Motta Jr. asked residents to gather safely and responsibly for the holidays and to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people if possible.

Director Motta reminded the public that one week into the Territory’s latest step forward on the path to a “new normal” to continue taking the necessary precautions and to adhere to the guidelines issued by the Virgin Islands Department of Health.

“These guidelines are in place to keep us all safe. This is particularly important as we approach the holiday season and as we grapple with increased travel to and from the United States while many of those mainland states are experiencing alarming surges in COVID positivity,” he said. “If you must gather for the holidays, do so responsibly and within the guidelines issued by the Department of Health. Limit your family gatherings to persons within your immediate household or to no more than 10 persons.”

During the briefing, Territorial Epidemiologist Esther Ellis listed a number of precautions and guidelines residents can take when entertaining during the holidays:

• Host gatherings outdoors if possible. If not, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated • Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing.

• Have guests wash their hands before serving or eating food • Consider one person to serve all food so multiple people are not handling serving utensils • Limit the number of people going into and out of the kitchen or grill area • Use single-use condiments or identify one person to serve sharable items, such as salad dressings, food containers and condiments to avoid multiple contact with items

A complete list of guidelines regarding the COVID-19 pandemic can be found at www.covid19usvi.com.

Medicare Advantage Plan Division of Personnel Director Dayna Clendinen also presented information about the Medicare Advantage Plan, to which all government retirees will be transitioned beginning January 1.

Retirees should receive a new United Healthcare Advantage card the first week in December.

Benefits to retirees under the new plan include:

• $0 co-pay for all doctor visits • $0 deductible • $500 allowance for vision and hearing aid exams • Free virtual consultations with nurses 24 hours a day, seven days a week • Free access to fitness centers or gyms • Gift reward cards for house calls, such as virtual preventative checkups.

Under the new plan, Medicare Part D prescription coverage remains unchanged.

Director Clendinen also addressed a mass-mailing of a coupon book and a 2021 premium about the AARP Medicare Supplement Plan, and she clarified that unless a person has an individual health care plan with AARP, the letter and coupon book can be disregarded.

As United HealthCare transitions to the GVI Medicare Advantage Plan, beneficiaries may receive a termination notice; however, that does not mean those beneficiaries have lost coverage, Director Clendinen said.

For more information about the GVI Group Medicare Advantage Plan, call the Personnel Division at 340-774- 8588 or 340-718-8588 or contact United HealthCare at 866-827-9022 or visit uhcvirtualretiree.com/gvi.

Unemployment

• As of November 15, the Virgin Islands Department of Labor has received 16,952 applications for unemployment benefits and has processed 15,801 of those applications. • To date, the Virgin Islands Department of Labor (VIDOL) has issued 45,883 unemployment insurance checks totaling more than $36,000,420. • The department also has issued an additional 28,096 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation checks totaling $43,407,300. • VIDOL has issued 4,299 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance checks to self-employed Virgin Islanders totaling $7,198,932 and $2,413,449 in Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. • In total, the Bryan-Roach Administration has issued 79,691 checks totaling $89,020,101.

Stimulus

• The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)and the Department of Finance began issuing the latest batch of CARES Act stimulus payments on November 10: 2,923 checks totaling $4 million. • To date, the BIR and the Department of Finance have processed $82,602,604 in CARES payments to 50,636. • The Bureau of Internal Revenue has extended the deadline to file a 2018 income tax return or form 1040 to receive a stimulus check to November 21. The Bureau will continue to make payments until December 31, 2020.

 

Airline Passenger Arrested at Cyril E. King Airport for Having 5 Kilos of Marijuana in Carry-On Suitcase

St. Thomas, USVI – United States Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced that a complaint has been filed against Christopher Lloyd Turnbull, charging him with possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Turnbull made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller on Thursday, November 12, 2020.

According to the affidavit submitted in support of the complaint, upon Turnbull’s arrival to the Cyril E. King Airport on November 11, 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers directed Turnbull to secondary inspection. Upon searching a black carry-on suitcase in Turnbull’s possession, which Turnbull admitted was his, CBP officers discovered approximately eight different sealed packages containing a green leafy substance that tested positive for the presence of marijuana. The parcels had a combined field weight of approximately 5 kilograms.

Turnbull, who originally departed from the Ronald Reagan airport in Washington, D.C., claimed that while he was waiting at the gate for his connecting flight in Charlotte, an unknown man approached him and offered him $15,000 to transport the black carry-on suitcase to St. Thomas. Turnbull also claimed that a friend of his (whose last name he did not know) paid for his one-way ticket to St. Thomas. Turnbull had no accommodations reserved for his stay in St. Thomas and did not know when he would be returning.

 

Governor Bryan Addresses False Rumors Regarding USVI and COVID-19 Vaccine

November 10, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has issued a statement debunking a number of false rumors and misinformation that is circulating on social media platforms regarding the U.S. Virgin Islands and potential COVID-19 vaccines that are being developed.

The rumors apparently were started after a report by “60 Minutes” about the logistics of delivering a Coronavirus vaccine across the United States and the territories as part of the federal government’s “Operation Warp Speed.”

The CBS News program reported that the Territory does not have the capability to provide ultra-cold storage for a potential vaccine; however, some residents are posting to social media that “60 Minutes” reported that residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands would be used as test subjects for a possible vaccine.

“There is no basis for these false statements being propagated on social media platforms, and, in fact, they are harmful to the health and well-being of our community in that they instill unnecessary fear and doubt among residents and could potentially cause some Virgin Islanders to forgo using a safe vaccine that could protect them against the virus,” Governor Bryan said.

“I am as anxious and hopeful as anyone that an effective vaccine be developed as quickly as possible to protect all Americans against COVID-19,” Governor Bryan said. “However, I will not put the public health of our community at risk, and I will not approve distribution of a vaccine that has not been thoroughly vetted and approved by the Food and Drug Administration and that has not been meticulously tested.”

The Governor urges USVI residents to get accurate and authentic information from legitimate sources, such as the Virgin Islands Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Government House and to dismiss baseless misinformation from social media platforms.

During a hearing last month in the 33rd Legislature about Governor Bryan's request for a 60-day extension to the State of Emergency, Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion said she has established a Vaccination Task Force to establish protocols and logistics for distributing COVID-19 vaccinations once a safe vaccine is approved by the FDA.

VIWMA ADVISES COMMUNITY OF LAGOON STREET PUMP STATION FORCE MAIN BREAK

(St. Croix, USVI) - The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (VIWMA) advises the community that a force main break occurred at the Lagoon Street pump station in the vicinity of the St. Patrick School at approximately 1:30 pm, Friday, November 06, 2020. The pump station has been taken offline while preparations to execute repairs commence.

VIWMA staff and contractors will commence repairs on Saturday, November 7, 2020. The Authority will continue to keep the community abreast of repair progress.

Traffic will not be impacted, as berms will be placed in the area to reduce any environmental impacts. Residents with impacted immune systems or respiratory conditions are asked to avoid the area until repairs are complete.

The VIWMA thanks the community for their cooperation and patience.

To report a solid waste or wastewater emergency, call the VIWMA 24-Hour Hotline at 844- WMA-USVI (844-962-8784).

Veterans Day Motorcade to honor Oscar R. James Sr., Abraham Hewitt, and Romeo Malone for their military service

.On November 8 th and 11th 2020, the Virgin Islands will join the nation in honoring the “Service” of service members across the nation as a part of the annual Veterans Day celebrations. The following Virgin Islanders, have been selected as honorees for their selfless service in their respective districts:

Oscar R. James Sr. – St. John, Romeo A. Malone – St. Thomas & Abraham Hewitt – St. Croix

The Director of the Office of Veterans Affairs is extending an invitation to Veterans wanting to take part using their privately owned vehicle. In an effort to discourage and prevent mass gatherings, per Governor Bryan’s mandates, Veterans will be taking part using their own vehicle. In addition to Veterans, we welcome car clubs (i.e. bug clubs, motorcycle clubs, and or truck clubs). Staging information for each island is as follows:

St. John - Sunday, November 8th, 12 pm staging time, 1 pm start time from Mongoose Junction Area

St. Croix – Wednesday, November 11th, 8 am staging time, 9 am start time from Canegata Ballpark

St. Thomas – Wednesday, November 11th, 2 pm staging time, 3 pm start time from the Northern end of the 4Winds Parking lot.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Atacha Randolph receives the National Guard Association of the United States Meritorious Service Award

October 27, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands - Chief Warrant Officer 4 Atacha Randolph receives the National Guard Association of the United States Meritorious Service Award, held at the Lt. Col. David Canegata Conference room, Joint Forces Headquarters Oct. 24, 2020.

Randolph was recognized for her outstanding contributions to the Virgin Islands National Guard while serving as the Virgin Islands National Guard Association's membership committee chair. As a direct result of her efforts, VINGA remains with a 100 percent membership now going on eight consecutive years.

"This year under Chief Randolph, we also achieve 100 percent membership," said Beresford Edwards, VINGA president. "So, I nominated her for the NGAUS Meritorious Service Award."

Randolph receives a walnut plaque that has the NGAUS seal engraved in it. Beneath the NGAUS seal is the inscription "Meritorious Service Award," and underneath inscribes her name.

"I thank you, Mr. Edwards, for nominating me," said Randolph. "I'm honored, I'm humbled, I did not expect anything. I like what the organization does for us, and I just wanted to be an active member."

The association received an award for achieving the highest percentage of membership nationwide for two consecutive years. "In addition to achieving 100 percent," said Edwards. "We were number one in the Nation for two years in a row."

VINGA Inc. is a non-profit corporation. The association's purpose is to promote growth and development, foster friendship and corporation amongst the VING officers, and provide services for its members and dependents.

Governor Bryan Visits Tutu Hi-Rise For an Update on Demolition Progress

October 26, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — This past weekend, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. visited the condemned buildings at Tutu Hi-Rise to check on the progress of the demolition process, which began two weeks ago.

Officers of the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) did a sweep through the abandoned buildings on October 16 to check that they are empty and ready to be torn down. 

Contractors also have cleared the lots around the buildings and have started prepping the structures for demolition by securing plastic sheeting around the outside to minimize dust and debris. Beginning at the end of the week, workers will begin erecting 6-foot cyclone fencing around the site before the actual demolition begins, and the site will have 24-hour security and VIPD is scheduled to make another sweep of the area.

“This is a significant step forward for our recovery, and the demolition of these condemned buildings is a tangible sign of our progress forward and Virgin Islanders’ resilience,” Governor Bryan said. “While the destruction from Hurricanes Irma and Maria was a tragedy, it also provides the opportunity to rebuild modern, affordable housing opportunities, in safer housing communities that also provide economic development and self-sufficiency options for the people of St. Thomas.”

Virgin Islands Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Graham, whose agency is overseeing the demolition, said the future housing community that is built to replace the destroyed buildings will be a low-rise, low-density smaller community of 84 units. The apartments will be larger than the previous units, and they will be energy-independent so residents won’t have power bills, he said.

“The demolition of these buildings is an epic moment,” Director Graham said. “It not only marks the first step in replacing the devastated Tutu Hi-Rise apartment community, but it is also the first project in a 10-year transformation of our entire housing portfolio that will vastly improve the living conditions of our residents.”

The first phase of the demolition was awarded to RG Engineering, Inc. for a cost of $2,969,013, and it includes five buildings: Buildings 10, 11, 12, 14, and 22 for a total of 96 units that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) determined were hit hardest by the Category 5 hurricanes of 2017 and pose the highest structural risk.

The V.I. Housing Authority received a Notice to Proceed on October 19 to begin mobilization, with a date to complete Phase 1 of the demolition by May 17, 2021.

The demolition will begin at Building 14 and progress toward Building 10, and the demolition crews are scheduled to work from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

 

Governor Bryan and Lt. Governor Roach Pay a Visit to Montessori Students on St. Thomas

October 23, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. and Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach on Friday paid a visit to students at the Virgin Islands Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy on the East End of St. Thomas, and spoke with a young author, promising to include her book in his Summer Reading Challenge.

The Governor stopped in to say “Good Morning” to the young kindergarten and pre-K students, many of whom said hello and then returned studiously to their assigned tasks.

Governor Bryan also had a lengthy conversation with fourth-grader Rhea Madison James, who wrote the book “The Runaway Watermelon,” and 12th-grader Deja-Marie Simon, who took Rhea’s original drawings and turned them into colorful illustrations for the book.

During his conversation with the students, Governor Bryan told them he would be including “The Runaway Watermelon” in his next Summer Reading Program, which challenges students across the Territory to read specific number of books during the summer.

DOH Awarded $1.8M for Phase I of the Redevelopment of the Historic John S. Moorehead Municipal Complex

October 21, 2020

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands- The Office of Disaster Recovery announces the obligation of $1,837,783 to the Virgin Islands Department of Health for the demolition of the old mental health building and interior renovations to the department’s clinical buildings on St. Thomas.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance Program has awarded these funds to execute the demolition of the abandoned two-story building that once housed the mental health division for the Department of Health. Eliminating the steel structure will pave the way for a new 50,000 square foot parking lot and sidewalk development designed to meet ADA standards.

Department of Health’s Commissioner Justa E. Encarnacion applauds the collaboration between her staff, FEMA, and the Office of Disaster Recovery. “Following a lengthy and complex process, FEMA has now granted the refurbishment of the interior of the buildings in the existing envelope and the development of a parking lot solving a long-standing issue at our St. Thomas location.”

The solicitation for the demolition of the old mental health building is currently under development. Once a contractor is selected, and the contract is executed, work can begin.

“The Office of Disaster Recovery continues to utilize all of its resources to support the efforts of the Department of Health,” said Director Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien.

“The department currently has nine other projects under FEMA review, six of which are hinged to the restoration of the department’s clinical operations on St. Thomas.”

This obligation also lays the groundwork for an economical and convenient location to house the department’s clinical services while repairs are made to eleven historic buildings at the John S. Moorehead Municipal Hospital.

Construction of the parking lot should be complete by November 2022.

USVI Department of Human Services: No Additional Issuances of P-EBT Approved or Announced for October

(US VIRGIN ISLANDS) - In June 2020, the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services (DHS) received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to implement an emergency Pandemic EBT program (P-EBT). P-EBT was and is granted as a one-time issuance, not a monthly benefit.

There was no guarantee that a second round of P-EBT benefits would be issued for the 2020/2021 school year. However, because most schools started the year virtually and without school lunch programs up and running, a second issuance was granted for August and September. No issuance has been approved or announced for October by the federal agencies.

Please be aware however that both the DHS Head Start program and the V.I. Department of Education have announced meal distribution schedules that are now active.

U.S. Transportation Department Awards USVI $22 Million For Crown Bay Cargo Infrastructure Expansion

October 16, 2020

.U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced on Thursday that U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has awarded the U.S. Virgin Islands $21,869,260 for the reconstruction and modernization of cargo handling and storage infrastructure at the Crown Bay Terminal on St. Thomas.

The funding comes after intensive efforts and lobbying of federal officials that the Office of the Governor and the Virgin Islands Port Authority (VIPA) began last year. 

“The funding for this project follows the continuous efforts and contact by office and Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe and will help the Port Authority expedite the expansion of the cargo terminal at Crown Bay,” Governor Bryan said. “VIPA’s project is part of my Administration’s larger plan for the Territory’s economic development, and the expansion of the cargo facilities on St. Thomas will bring greater revenue to the U.S. Virgin Islands through added marine and shipping traffic.”

The project includes bulkhead rehabilitation, concrete apron restoration, reconstruction of three cargo storage areas and security improvements including lighting, fencing and fire protection.

The expansion, which is located in an Opportunity Zone, will facilitate more efficient cargo movement both into and out of St. Thomas, a press release from the U.S. Department of Transportation states.

VIPA Executive Director Carlton Dowe said the current facilities are too small for the needs of the community and still needs repairs from the 2017 hurricanes.

“The receipt of a $21.9 million grant to improve our marine ports is unprecedented for the Territory,” Director Dowe said. “This grant will allow for the much-needed expansion of the 40-year old cargo terminal in Crown Bay and will make St. Thomas a prime port for transshipment throughout the eastern and southern Caribbean.”

Director Dowe also thanked Tropical Shipping, Crowley and RAM Consulting Services in Jacksonville, FL who partnered with VIPA’s staff to submit the information required to obtain the grant.

The monies for the U.S. Virgin Islands is part of a funding package the federal agency disbursed across 15 states and totaling $220 million.

“This $220 million in federal grants will improve America’s ports, with nearly half the projects in Opportunity Zones, which were established to revitalize economically distressed communities,” Secretary Chao said in a statement.

The Port Infrastructure Development Program aims to support efforts by ports and industry stakeholders to improve facility and freight infrastructure to ensure the country’s present and future freight transportation needs are met, according to the U.S. Transportation Department.

JFL’s First JFL Goes Pink Education Day Attended by JFL Staff and Community

October 13, 2020

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – The Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center (“JFL”) announces its First JFL Goes Pink Education Day.

The hospital thanks JFL staff and the community for attending both sessions on October 13, 2020.

For Topic #1: “Breast Cancer Overview and Self Examination,” the Presenter was Certified Midwife, Brittany Dawson, APRN, CNM. The presentation included a presentation on how to conduct a proper self-examination and early detection warning signs of breast cancer.

For Topic #2: “Breast Cancer Risk Factors and Risk Reduction Methods,” the Presenter was Dr. Angelo K. Galiber, JFL Chief Radiologist. The presentation included visual presentations of real breast cancer MRIs and in depth explanations of breast cancer risk factors and tools for reduction of risk.

According to Interim CEO Dyma B. Williams, “Today, the JFL Team and I learned more about healing with heart, as we raise awareness in the community about breast cancer. I thank the JFL Team for being the very foundation of the healthcare system that we are working to build for our community as we Rebuild Today for a Healthier Tomorrow.”

Governor Bryan Launches Survey on USVI’s Readiness for Telehealth

October 12, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — As part of his Healthier Horizons Initiative, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Monday launched the USVI Telehealth Provider Survey to determine how ready local doctors and healthcare providers are to use technology to extend their reach beyond traditional clinical settings. Telehealth includes options such as video doctor visits and remote patient monitoring.

Today, the survey was emailed to doctors and healthcare providers across the Territory and is also accessible online at http://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VITelehealth. The online survey takes five minutes to complete can be submitted via a desktop, tablet or smart phone. All responses are confidential. The deadline to submit the USVI Telehealth Provider Survey is Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.

“I’m urging every doctor and healthcare provider to take the USVI Telehealth Provider Survey so that we can have a clear picture of how much work needs to be done to deliver telehealth services for Virgin Islands residents,” Governor Bryan said. “The ultimate goal is to promote the use of telehealth, especially in the wake of COVID- 19, where traveling, even between islands, is a cause for concern for everyone, not only high-risk patients.”

The telehealth survey is designed to assess telehealth capacity and identify gaps, such as training of IT staff; technology needs; software and hardware; and to provide baseline information as the Administration works towards the development of the Territory’s first-ever Health Information Exchange (HIE).

“We are recommending that a senior administrator within a doctor or healthcare provider’s office complete the survey, because questions cover areas such as general facility information, telehealth capacity and HIE capacity,” said Dr. Julia Sheen, Health and Human Services Policy Advisor to Governor Bryan. “We need maximum participation for us to truly understand our needs, and I join the governor in urging the medical community to participate.”

Since January, Dr. Sheen has been working with key stakeholders in the public and private sectors, as part of the V.I. Telehealth Workgroup, to lay the groundwork for making telehealth services in the U.S. Virgin Islands a reality. The Workgroup is leading the coordination of telehealth services among healthcare providers and will spearhead the regulation and implementation of the HIE.

Their work is focused on policy and regulation, including Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement, malpractice insurance coverage, licensing of providers, and the implementation of enabling legislation.

The Healthier Horizons Initiative includes telehealth and 10 other projects to create a comprehensive health care system for Virgin Islanders by broadening the scope of health services provided to residents, increasing patient access to quality care and hardening the healthcare infrastructure.

DLCA ANNOUNCES REOPENING OF PSI TEST CENTERS

October 9, 2020

he Virgin Islands Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (“DLCA”), notifies licensees and the public that PSI resumed operations of its Test Centers in the St. Croix and St. Thomas Districts following COVID-19 closures on March 13, 2020.

To encourage safe social distancing and promote the health and well-being of customers, the PSI team, and the community who relies on the DLCA & PSI’s Test Centers have implemented a few security measures, including but not limited to those listed below:

Candidate Health Questionnaire: Candidates are required to complete a health questionnaire related to possible COVID-19 exposure and present it when they arrive at the PSI test center.

Face Coverings: Face coverings are required for all Candidates and Test Center Administrators during the entire testing experience. Enhanced Cleaning: High-touch areas, including but not limited to keyboards, desktops, chair handles, check-in stations, door handles, and writing instruments are sanitized after each use.

PSI Examination sites are located on St. Croix at the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, 3000 Golden Rock Shopping Center, Christiansted, VI 00820; and, on St. Thomas at the University of the Virgin Islands at 2 John Brewers Bay, Cell Building, St. Thomas, VI 00802. Please note that all checks for examinations must be payable to PSI. The Test Site hours of operations are:

St. Croix location- 9:00am - 4:00pm Tuesdays and Wednesdays St. Thomas location- 9:00am - 1:00pm Monday and Thursdays

On the day of the examination, you should arrive at least 30 minutes before your appointment. This extra time is for signing, identification, and familiarizing you with the examination process. If you arrive late, you may not be admitted to the examination site and you will forfeit your examination registration fee. Dress appropriate and walk with a jacket.

 

Administration’s COVID-19 Task Force Reminds Community of Existing Restrictions Amid Holiday Weekend

October 8, 2020

US VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan’s COVID-19 Task Force on Thursday announced that it will fully enforce the existing restrictions under the governor’s Executive Order ahead of the holiday weekend and throughout the political campaign season.

Amid the holiday weekend and end of the political campaign season, the governor’s COVID-19 task force reiterated Thursday that gatherings of 50 or more persons, whether in private or public settings and other restrictions, are strictly prohibited subject to penalty per the governor’s latest Executive Order.

Governor Bryan said Thursday that the protocols in place have proved successful in keeping the infection rate throughout the territory below one percent and thanked Virgin Islands residents and visitors for their adherence to the local health department and CDC guidelines.

“I know that this is a holiday weekend and that we are near the end of the political campaign season, but we have to remain vigilant as a community in our efforts to keep safe from the spread of COVID-19. Thanks largely to your willingness to follow the guidelines, we have been doing good in slowing the spread of this virus in our community, and we need to continue to follow the guidelines put forth by our COVID-19 Task Force to remain safe,” Governor Bryan said.

Administration Updates Residents on COVID-19, P-EBT Cards and Medicare Advantage for Retirees

September 28, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his weekly press briefing to update residents about the status of the COVID-19 virus in the Territory, Government House Communications Director Richard Motta Jr. was joined by Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez, who announced a second round of P-EBT benefits, and Division of Personnel Director Dayna Clendinen, who announced the new Medicare Advantage plan for Government retirees age 65 and older.

However, before beginning the briefing, Director Motta also gave a brief statement from Governor Albert Bryan Jr. about the passing of St. Thomas-St. John community icon Wayne “Facts Man” Adams

“Wayne had a gift that he selflessly shared with all in our community. His penchant for information and his love of Virgin Islands history made him a household name and an icon on our local radio talk shows,” Governor Bryan said. “He would frequently call in to tell of the achievements of Virgin islanders. He was an important voice, and he will be sorely missed.”

Director Motta also gave further remarks about Governor Bryan’s statement issued before Monday’s press conference regarding the suspension of the Bryan/Roach Administration’s efforts to close on the Matching Funds Securitization transaction.

While the transaction was somewhat complicated in its structure, it ultimately promised to provide a significant cash infusion to the Treasury of the Virgin Islands over the next three years, while simultaneously reducing the long-term debt obligations of the Government by an estimated $40 million over a 20-year period,” Director Motta said.

“The Governor has made it clear that is intentions were to use those savings to shore up the GERS pension system to the greatest extent possible and provide short-term relief as more long-term strategies were developed and effectuated,” he said. “The extremely low interest rate market made this transaction possible, and the Administration moved aggressively to seize the opportunity for the people of the Virgin Islands.”

Director Motta said Governor Bryan remains committed to averting a projected cut in benefits for the current retirees of the public pension system, and he looks forward to continued collaboration with those senators who understand the urgency of the situation and are willing to work toward solutions.

 

Communications Director Reminds VI Families about P-EBT Program, Asks for Community's Patience as School Year Begins

.U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – During the Government House weekly press briefing, Richard Motta Jr., Director of Communications for the Office of the Governor, reminded the community that the Pandemic Electronic Benefits (P-EBT) program continues to issue cards to eligible students and asked for the public’s patience as the Department of Education begins the 2020-2021 school year with a two-week soft-opening period.

“Today is the first day of school for the territory’s public-school students and I want to wish all our students, teachers, faculty and staff a warm welcome back,” Mr. Motta said. “Parents and guardians, teachers and other support staff: This week and this soft-opening-period will not be without its share of challenges. I beg your indulgence on behalf of the governor and the Department of Education, as we all navigate this unchartered territory, and ask for your continued cooperation toward our shared goal of ensuring our students have a safe and successful start to the 2020-2021 school year.

Mr. Motta also announced that the Department of Human Services continues to issue P-EBT cards to families of students who are eligible. The Federal funding under the P-EBT program is tied to the Department of Education’s school lunch program which is why the federal government has structured the benefits in a way which issues those benefits to the individual students as opposed to the head of household as done under the SNAP program. “By now most of you have received your P-EBT benefits in the mail,” Mr. Motta said. Anyone with questions or concerns, including lost or damaged cards, or difficulty creating a pin, should call the P-EBT hotline at 340-772-7120 or send an email to pebt@dhs.vi.gov with P-EBT in the subject line, he said.

Senator Gittens moves land transfer for new St. Croix police station forward

September 11, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Senator Kenneth L. Gittens’ proposal to acquire land for a new, state-of-the-art police station in Frederiksted received unanimous approval Friday from the 33rd Legislature’s Committee on Government Operations, Consumer Affairs, Energy, Environment & Planning.

Testifiers from the V.I. Police Department, Property & Procurement and the V.I. Water & Power Authority also expressed their support for Bill #33-0358, which transfers two acres of land from WAPA to the Government of the Virgin Islands for the construction of a new police facility at #51 Hannah’s Rest, Frederiksted, St. Croix.

Senator Gittens pointed out that the land transfer came at no cost to the Government and provided leverage in securing federal funding for a modern police station designed to better meet the needs of the community.

“I continue to be very concerned about the exorbitant rents our Government is paying for what are often substandard facilities,” Senator Gittens said. “Construction of a new police station is a significant cost saving measure in addition to assuring our officers and civilian staff have safe and adequate work spaces.

” Senator Gittens, a former law enforcement executive, emphasized the importance of the new Frederiksted police station being built to withstand hurricanes and to serve as a satellite emergency operations center in the event of a disaster.

“Law enforcement must constantly grow and change to meet the needs of the community it serves,” the St. Croix Senator said. “I envision this new police station as not simply a place for VIPD to operate, but also as a center for positive community engagement with law enforcement. Building better relationships and trust with the citizens that our police serve is critical to their effectiveness.”

Senator Gittens has also worked to identify property in the St. Thomas-St. John district suitable for new police facilities. Legislation to transfer property on St. Thomas should be heard in the weeks ahead, he said. Senator Gittens remains deeply appreciative of the support he received for the property transfer legislation and thanked his colleagues, testifiers, and the public for their input. “Bill #33-0358 is the first step towards this much-needed modern, hardened Frederiksted station,” he said. “I look forward to this measure receiving final approval.”

V.I. Fire Service to Host Relief Drive for Family Who Lost Their Home in Recent Fire

September 10, 2020.

ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – On September 3, the Virgin Islands Fire Service responded to a residential fire that left a family of six homeless. After seeing the family’s request for assistance on social media, the agency is once again coming to their aid. This time the Fire Service will be joining others in the community to host a relief drive for the family.

The drive will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 15 at the Omar Brown Sr. Fire Station (Hotel Company) and the George C. Scott Fire Station (Tutu Fire Station). The family, which includes four children ranging in ages from 5 to 1, has requested donations for clothes, food, shelter, school supplies, toiletries, medication and medical assistance.

“We encourage the community to support the drive,” said Fire Service Director Daryl A. George. “These are our friends and neighbors, and they need our assistance.”

 

 

Governor Bryan Moves Territory to “Safer at Home” Status

September 8, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – During his weekly press briefing on Tuesday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. allowed a number of restrictions under the “Stay at Home” order to expire, effectively moving the Territory up to “Safer at Home” status, meaning that nonessential businesses are allowed to reopen.

Governor Bryan also said the Territory is scheduled to resume leisure travel on September 19, which means that hotels, Airbnbs, villas and other tourist accommodations may begin taking reservations again.

During this current phase, visitation to nursing homes and senior assisted living facilities remains prohibited, bars are to remain closed and beaches are to close at 4 p.m. on weekends.

“We understand that COVID doesn’t know what time it is, but our decision to close the beaches at 4 p.m. is to discourage the partying and gatherings that traditionally occur on our beaches in the late afternoon hours,” Governor Bryan said. “The restriction on gatherings greater than 50 persons and the requirements of facial coverings and social distancing remain in effect.”

During the “Safer at Home” phase, restaurants will be allowed to resume dine-in operations under the following conditions:

No serving of alcohol at bar counters

No more than six persons per table

Tables must be 6 feet apart

Employees must wear facial coverings at all times

 

 should wear facial coverings whenever they are not seated at a table

The USVI Department of Human Service’s Office of Child Care & Regulatory Service Updates Requirements for Family, Friends and Neighbors Block Grant

September 1, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Today, the Office of Child Care and Regulatory Services, that administers the Family, Friends and Neighbors (FFN) portion of the Block Grant announced changes to the application limits for kids. For the summer months, the federally funded program provided childcare subsidies for approved parent applicants and family, friend or neighbor (informal) applicants.

The summer funding covered kids aged zero (0) – twelve (12). As of September 1, 2020, the age limit has been reduced to children ages zero (0) to five (5) due to the start of the fall (20/21) school year. This change is mandated by federal requirements. Additionally, the FFN program will cover kids aged zero to twelve (0 – 12) for post work-day hours (4 p.m. – 7 a.m.). Eligible applicants can get up to eight hours of care covered.

Special Applicant Requirements: 1) Informal Provider/FFN Application for Parents 2) Informal Provider/FFN Application for Providers (Both the Parent and Provider Applications must be turned in at the same time for processing) 3) Employer documentation/ job verification citing work hours 4) Completion of all required documentation by The Office of Child Care in order for applications to be processed and awards granted.

No new Block Grant Applications will be accepted for child care centers.

Parent can submit an application to the Office of Child Care and Regulatory Services for Child Care Subsidy Assistance by downloading and completing our Child Care Informal Provider Application from our Department of Human Services at www.dhs.gov.vi/OCCRS/index.html.

The parent(s) of the child/ren can apply for subsidies for children ages zero – five (0 - 5) for the 8a.m. to 4p.m. shift, or parents working after hour shifts (4p.m. to 7a.m.) can apply for kids aged zero to twelve (0 – 12). The parent must list all information requested for the Family, Friend, or Neighbor (FFN) he or she has selected to care for the child/ren. Income eligibility determined on a case by case basis.

To be approved as an Informal or FFN Provider, the provider cannot live with the parents or children. A clearance by the V.I. Police Department Criminal Records and V.I. Sex Offender Registry check will be conducted by The Office of Child Care & Regulatory Services.

Block Grant (Child Care) applications are now available for parents and guardians on the Department of Human Services website Child Care and Regulatory Services page - www.dhs.gov.vi/OCCRS/index.html. The application can be downloaded, filled out and sent in at: • St. Croix - Office of Child Care, #129 Golden Rock • St. Thomas - Office of Child Care - Knud Hansen Building, 1303 Hospital Ground, • St. John - DHS Office in Cruz Bay.

Or, completed applications can be scanned and emailed to BlockGrant.Application@dhs.vi.gov.

Please Note: The Office of Child Care and Regulatory Service has updated contact information as the division is teleworking at this time. No in person meetings or interviews are being conducted at this time.

St. Thomas Office: 340-774-0930 Process Coordinator Extension: 4186 Office Assistant Extension: 4181 Licensing Director: 4184

St. Croix Office: 340-772-7100 Process Coordinator Extension: 7048 Child Care Specialist Extension: 7044 Child Care Specialist Extension: 7045 Licensing Specialist Extension: 7047 Office Assistant Extension: 7147 QRIS Director Extension: 7046

Coast Guard boat crew rescues stranded boater in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

August 31, 2020

SAINT THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands —The crew of a Boat Forces Detachment St Thomas 33 Special Purpose Craft - Law Enforcement rescued kayaker in distress west of Perseverance Bay in Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands Sunday evening.

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a call from a Saint Thomas 911 Emergency Service operator at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, reporting a call from the kayaker, who relayed he had suffered a pulled shoulder and could not make it back to shore.

With sunset approaching, the Boat Forces crew responded and searched the area, when shortly thereafter the kayaker was spotted stranded on the rocky shore of Perseverance Bay.

The boat crew utilized a rescue line to help assist the kayaker to the boat and safely recover him from the water. The kayaker was transported to pier at the University of the Virgin Islands, where he was received by awaiting Emergency Medical Service personnel.

"Thanks to the swift response and highly skilled crew we were able to achieve the best case scenario for the situation,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Eduardo Sanchez, who served as the boat Coxswain for the case.

“Arriving on scene before sunset was key to us being able to spot and rescue him.” Sanchez further relayed that the case was really rewarding since it was also the first rescue case for two of the crew.

“We are constantly training to remain proficient and be at our best when the call comes in, being able to rely on your training to help save a life is what it’s all about and makes all the hard work worthwhile,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez additionally mentioned that the kayaker was able to call in the distress using his cel phone, but the device was close to losing signal. It’s important for boaters to have some type of VHF marine communications as a primary means of communication, to always use a life jacket and prepare a float plan that will be shared with a responsible person who can call for help and provide the details of a voyage in case of an overdue situation.

Governor Bryan Announces Extension of Stay at Home Order

August 29, 2020.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr., announced Saturday morning that he will sign an Executive Order extending the territory’s current Stay at Home order.

The restrictions under the current Stay at Home Order are set to expire at 6 am Monday, August 31. Governor Bryan’s new Executive Order will extend those restrictions an additional week to 8 am Tuesday, September 8.

The governor is expected to provide additional details during his next weekly Coronavirus update at 1 pm on Monday, August 31.

Department of Human Services Staff Grieve the Loss of Residents at Queen Louise Home For the Aged St. Thomas

August 26, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — On August 26, 2020, the Department of Human Services (DHS) confirmed the fourth death of one of its residents in the span of a little more than a week. Eight days ago, the Department reported the passing of their 101-year-old resident, and today shared the news that three other residents have since passed away. “While we are aware of the risks COVID- 19 poses to our most vulnerable population, seniors, especially those with underlying health issues, the loss of four precious residents in such a short period of time is stunning and painful for the team at Queen Louise Home and for all of the DHS family,” said Kimberley Causey-Gomez, Commissioner of the Department of Human Services.

A little over two weeks ago, residents and staff of Queen Louise Home for the Aged (QLH) were tested for COVID-19 in a pro-active, planned and coordinated effort between the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health. DHS leadership and staff, including the Queen Louise Home physician, Department of Health and CDC physicians and staff and the Schneider Regional Medical Center met daily and partnered to put their best resources to addressing the unfolding reality of the coronavirus and its spread into the facility.

Five residents, who tested negative, were moved to a separate non-congregate facility suited to their comfort and care and continue to receive care there. Re-testing of the staff and residents confirmed the five to still be negative and all nursing staff test results returned negative. Eight residents remain positive and are continuing to receive enhanced medical care and supervision at QLH after being thoroughly examined at Schneider Regional Medical Center.

Commissioner Causey-Gomez elaborated on the health of the residents and said, “The nature of this virus and its effects on seniors is harsh and demands that we keep a constant and vigilant watch on them. Some have gone from nearly asymptomatic to critically ill in a matter of hours. While our minds and hands are busied with the tasks of quality care and mitigation, the hearts of the staff, who have been like family to our residents, are grieving the sudden loss of four of residents.”

Assistant Commissioner Michal Rhymer-Brown (whose responsibilities include oversight of the two Homes for the Aged) and Administrator Ernie Pennyfeather have been providing the extra support needed in a time like this. They also shared that in addition to treating and monitoring all residents, they are speaking on the phone to them to ensure they are comforted and aware of the care they are being given. Staff received additional mitigation training and best-practice tips from Schneider Regional Medical Center staff and physicians, and the QLH physician and the facility director, Virginia Raymond, remain in close contact with Dr. Tai Hunte-Ceasar and the Department of Health for enhanced support and resources.

“Unprecedented times, like the one we are living through, call for us all to lean on one another in new and different ways to effectively tackle the evolving nature of the pandemic. The Department of Health (DOH) has been and will continue to lend its full support for the good of the Queen Louise Home residents and staff and the Department of Human Services with the COVID-19 response,” said Commissioner of Health Justa Encarnacion. She went on to express her heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the residents who passed away. “All of us at DOH share in the grief of the staff at the Queen Louise Home for the Aged who have lost someone that they too consider family,” she stated.

Re-testing not only occurred on St. Thomas, but also for all 22 residents at the Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged in St. Croix, where, to date, all residents have continued to test negative.

Enhanced screening surveys and mandatory temperature checks were instituted and continue at all Department of Human Services facilities. Masks are required while in DHS facilities. Weekly assessments of available PPE are taken by all 12 divisions. Regular cleaning and sanitization of personal workspaces throughout the day is being aided through additional supplies. Additionally, staff at 24-hour facilities continue to have testing made available to them and all staff have been encouraged to get tested if they are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus or have any known exposure to someone who is positive for COVID-19.

Department of Human Services: Automatic 6-Month Extension of the Certification Period for SNAP and Cash Assistance Households

August 25, 2020

(US VIRGIN ISLANDS) – The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services (DHS) is notifying on-going Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) & Cash Assistance (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled (AABD) Households, due to recertify in the month of August 2020, that their certification period has been extended for six (6) months.

The department tells residents to disregard any Notice of Expiration that they may have received in the mail for an appointment this month. There is no need to call or visit the SNAP Offices. All benefits will be automatically uploaded to the card on the first of September.

Governor Bryan Extends Prayers To Bishop Herbert Bevard

August 21, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said Friday he is asking Virgin Islanders to keep Bishop Herbert Bevard in their thoughts and prayers as he recovers from a medical condition in the mainland.

“On behalf of the First Lady, my family and all Virgin Islanders, I’m extending my best wishes and prayers to Bishop Bevard during his recovery,” Governor Bryan said. “I am asking all Virgin Islanders to keep him in their thoughts and prayers.”

Those close to Bishop Bevard said he received excellent care at Schneider Regional Medical Center before he was flown off-island earlier this week for further treatment regarding a medical condition that is not related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bishop currently is in stable condition.

Bishop Bevard has led the Archdiocese of St. Thomas since 2008.

“As a long-time and beloved spiritual leader in our community, Bishop Bevard has provided guidance and solace to many Virgin Islanders, and we are praying for his speedy recovery and return to the Territory,” Governor Bryan said.

DLCA LAUNCHES CONSUMER RECALL PAGE

August 20, 2020.

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) Consumer Affairs Division is pleased to announce the addition of its newest page, a consumer recall page. “We continue to revamp DLCA’s online database to make it more accessible and informative for both our internal and external customers”, says DLCA Commissioner Richard Evangelista. The consumer recall page is designed to timely inform everyone about recalls that may occur in food, in more than 15,000 kinds of consumer products used in and around the home and in sports, recreation and schools, in motor vehicles and related equipment and in recreational boats and related equipment.

The information is provided by the following various well known resource organizations: The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, The United States Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, The United States Coast Guard, The United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, The United States Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To access the recall page visit www.dlca.vi.gov click on Consumer Affairs then recall. When you are on the recall page, click a topic and you will be directed to that organizations official recall page. In addition, DLCA have launched a YouTube channel. If you have missed any of our radio, community efforts and Facebook lives please visit and subscribe at DLCA USVI.

As a reminder, DLCA may still be contacted by using the main telephone lines at 340-713-3522 on St. Croix; 340-714-3522 on St. Thomas and 340-474-2800 on St. John. DLCA staff no longer have use of multiple lines, at times calls may be delayed. If you are experiencing these delays, DLCA has an employee cellphone listing to contact your representative directly. You may view this listing by visiting our website at www.dlca.vi.gov click on contact then employee directory.

 

Governor Bryan Holds Ribbon-Cutting For Veterans Drive Road Project

August 18, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr., Lt. Governor Tregenza A. Roach and Public Works Commissioner Nelson Petty Jr. had a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday morning for the completion of the initial phase of the Veterans Drive road project, which is part of a larger revitalization of the St. Thomas Waterfront and Downtown Charlotte Amalie.

After some brief remarks, Governor Bryan and Lt. Governor Roach led a cavalcade of vehicles for an inaugural drive on the newly opened road.

Phase 1 of the Veterans Drive Improvement Project finished by the American Bridge Company well before its completion date of July 2021 at a cost of $45 million.

The scope of work included roadway widening; pavement reconstruction; seawall construction; drainage improvements; lighting; installation of a new expanded promenade and landscaping.

The design for Phase 2 is scheduled to be completed in 2021, with an estimated cost of $100 million.

The work for Phase 2 will include widening lanes on the waterfront from 9 to 11 feet; expanding the promenade, which will have a double alley of trees to enhance the pedestrian experience; raised speed tables for pedestrian crossings; areas for sidewalk cafes and other commercial activity; pedestrian and road lighting; a landscaped median; and improvements to the plaza area, which will include a water feature.

Upon the project’s completion, the existing roadway between the Legislature and Fort Christian will be closed to become a pedestrian walkway.

The Veterans Drive road project is the result of a multi-day charrette called the Town’s Blueprint that took place in 2010.

In addition to Governor Bryan, Lt. Governor Roach and Commissioner Petty, others who participated in the ribbon-cutting were American Bridge Company Project Manager Justin Berglund, St. Thomas-Water Island Administrator Avery Lewis, Veterans Affairs Director Patrick Farrell, Pastor Merle Malone of Frederick Evangelical Lutheran Church, Eric Castro, of Grade All Construction, and St. Thomas-St. John Police Chief Steven Phillip.

Governor Bryan Reminds Residents of Requirements During ‘Stay at Home’ Phase that Began Monday

August 18, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – During his weekly briefing on Monday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. reminded residents that the Territory returned to the “Stay at Home” phase for at least the next two weeks while the Bryan/Roach Administration continues trying to mitigate the resurgence of COVID-19 in the USVI.

“As we did last month in St. Croix when there was an outbreak in the Limetree refinery, we rolled back certain restrictions to prevent people from congregating to stop the spread of the virus,” Governor Bryan said, noting that bars were closed, beaches were closed early on weekends and holidays, the man camp at the refinery was locked down and screening protocols were added at the Territory’s ports of entry.

“All these measures, to this point, have proved successful in slowing the spread in the St. Croix District,” Governor Bryan said. “And while the source of spread in the St. Thomas-St. John District is proving a bit more elusive, we are hoping that with the Stay at Home order, we will have similar success.”

Unemployment

The Governor also urged residents to be patient while the V.I. Department of Labor wades through the complex process of getting unemployment monies to beneficiaries. Five different programs are being administered by the Department of Labor, and residents must apply to each program individually to receive the full assistance they deserve.

Additionally, residents who are self-employed first must apply for standard unemployment and be denied before they then can apply for the special unemployment benefits from the CARES Act. This step is necessary and mandated by the federal government.

“I cannot express enough how complicated and burdensome the unemployment process has been and has become now with the issuance of checks to the self-employed. These are not policies or requirements of the Virgin Islands Government. They are policies set forth by the federal government that we want the public to be aware of and adhere to,” Governor Bryan said.

Residents who have questions can call the Department of Labor COVID-19 hotline at 1-877-374-0356.

Restaurant Sanitization Inspections The Governor also announced that, beginning Monday, August 17, the Department of Health has begun inspections of glassware and utensils sanitization equipment at all licensed restaurants either by request or incidental inspection.

All licensed restaurants that successfully meet the inspection requirements will receive a certification that exempts them from the requirement to use disposable dishes, utensils, napkins and drink containers.

Bureau of Motor Vehicles

In addition to the “Stay at Home” restrictions, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles is extending the valid date on licenses and ID cards for an additional six months from the original expiration date. Vehicle registration online remains operational and residents are highly encouraged to take advantage of that option.

DLCA Announces Limited Cashier Window

August 17, 2020

Commissioner Richard T. Evangelista is notifying the public and business community that beginning today, Monday, August 17, 2020, due to Governor Bryan’s Stay at Home Public Health Emergency Supplemental Executive Order Thirteen, the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) will have limited cashier services in the Districts of St. Croix and St. Thomas only to businesses that cannot pay by credit card online.

“At the onset of Covid-19, DLCA found it necessary to suspend walk-in traffic to protect our internal and external customers” stated Commissioner Evangelista “While we highly encourage businesses to use our online licensing portal to pay for new or renewal licenses, we do recognize that some businesses prefer to pay with cash or a check.”

Tuesdays and Thursdays limited cashier hours are as follows:

• St. Croix- 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. • St. Thomas - 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. • St. John – Call (340) 474-2800 to schedule payment

Even though, walk-ins to speak to a DLCA representative are currently suspended, all staff are working remotely and available Mondays- Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. To make your online or telephone experience easier,it is recommend the following suggestions: 1. Utilize DLCA’s online website at www.dlca.vi.gov for business license renewals or applying for a new business license. A licensing officer will call or respond via email within 24 hours. Please have your unique six (6) digit control number available when the licensing officer calls. 2. File consumer complaints online. Consumers can now file a complaint through our online website at www.dlca.vi.gov. A consumer compliance officer will call you within 24 hours to discuss your case. Scams or complaints by telephone, contact 340-771-(SCAM)7226 on St. Croix and 340-727- (SCAM) 7226 in the District of St. Thomas/St. John. DLCA may still be contacted by using our main telephone lines at 340-713-3522 on St. Croix; 340-714- 3522 on St. Thomas and 340-474-2800 on St. John. DLCA receptionists no longer have use of multiple lines, at times calls may be delayed. If you are experiencing these delays, DLCA has an employee cellphone listing to contact your representative directly. You may view this listing by visiting our website at www.dlca.vi.gov click on contact then employee directory.

Department of Agriculture Held Ceremony For Reopening of the St. Croix Abattoir

August 14, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The VI Department of Agriculture (VIDA) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony  Friday, August 14, 2020, to celebrate the grand reopening of the St. Croix Abattoir, which has been completely renovated to better serve the community.

“Finally, after months of a voluntary closure and a total overhaul, the St. Croix Abattoir is ready to reopen,” said Agriculture Commissioner Positive Nelson. “The total update of the facility and its operational procedures complies with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service standards and allows for a more uniform program that assures safer meat is provided to the community at large.”

The initiative was chaired by Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Diana Collingwood and included extensive training for staff such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points certification, revisions and development of new Sanitation Operation Procedures and Good Manufacturing Practices, step-by-step flow charts and operational plans, and extensive repairs to the facility and dilapidated machinery.

“This critically needed overhaul was completed to establish a logical, scientific system to identify and control biological, chemical, and physical hazards that can occur during meat processing,” Commissioner Nelson said.

The St. Croix Abattoir operations restated with a soft opening on Monday to test the slaughtering process and facility. The Abattoir will officially commence full operations on Monday, August 17, 2020, for the livestock community.

The St. Croix abattoir is a red meat production establishment that receives cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs for slaughter. Operations at the Abattoir are regulated by laws of the Virgin Islands. Title 19 requires that all animals whose meat will be offered for sale in public places be slaughtered at government-controlled slaughterhouses which are subject to inspection and approval by the Commissioner of Health.

In addition to the VI Code, the Abattoir Division is also subject to federal laws. All animals brought to, and meat produced at the abattoir is inspected by an official from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and stamped as safe for public consumption.

 

Director Jenifer C. O’Neal Elected to NASBO Executive Committee

August 13, 2020

The Office of Management and Budget is pleased to announce that Director, Jenifer C. O’Neal has been elected to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) Executive Committee.

NASBO, a professional membership organization for state budget and finance officers, aims to improve the quality and availability of information to state budget officers, provide opportunities to share practices across states, provide training and research information through publications and
seminars, and assists groups such as National Governors Association, in the development and implementation of policy positions on state fiscal issues.

As a Director for the Eastern Region, Director O’Neal will participate in all NASBO meetings and relevant conference calls throughout the year and serve on the Executive Committee as a representative for the Eastern Region. Director O’Neal will serve a two-year term.Director O’Neal is the first Virgin Islands representative to serve on NASBO’s Executive

Department of Human Services and Department of Health Tackle Multiple COVID-19 Positives at Queen Louise Home For the Aged St. Thomas

August 12, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS —After proactively engaging with the Department of Health to test all staff and residents at both Department of Human Services Homes (DHS) for the Aged facilities in St. Croix and St. Thomas, DHS is now working with the Department of Health on a growing number of positive results in St. Thomas. Test results on August 12, 2020, revealed several Queen Louise staff and residents returned positive.

Of 17 residents tested, 10 returned positive results, and of 25 Queen Louise staff tested, 6 tested positive.

Department of Human Services leadership and staff, including the Queen Louise physician, Department of Health and CDC physicians and staff and the Schneider Regional Medical Center are working collaboratively to address the unfolding reality of the coronavirus and its spread into
the facility. The residents who tested negative will be relocated to non-congregate sheltering to try to maintain their negative status and good health. Re-testing will occur in accordance with guidance from the lead Epidemiologist with Department of Health.

The residents who tested positive are thus far asymptomatic or displaying only mild symptoms. All are being closely monitored and treated by the multi-disciplinary team. None of the residents
have required hospitalization. Staff who tested positive are in quarantine and only displaying mild symptoms thus far and have
not required hospitalization. With the major increase in cases in St. Thomas and the reality that facility staff must move about in the community, DHS is maintaining strict mitigation policies and
procedures, while keeping a close eye on staff and residents. The collaborative approach with the DOH is proving critical as the departments leverage knowledge and resources to address the reality
of the pandemic in the USVI.

The Knud Hansen Complex in St. Thomas remains closed, in an abundance of caution and for sanitization after one staff member tested positive at the administrative office complex. It will remain closed to the public through Friday, August 14, 2020. The Complex will re-open on
Monday, August 17, 2020.

• Meals on Wheels and Homemaker Services will continue to provide client services in the
community while continuing to adhere to all safety protocols.
• Drop boxes will also remain open and available for application drop off.

For all Department of Human Services facilities, masks are required when entering all facilities and enhanced screening surveys and mandatory temperature checks continue. All staff and close contacts of affected units have been notified to ensure their safety within the parameters of HIPAA guidelines.
Additionally, DHS is working to provide support for staff members. Staff testing is being encouraged and arranged for those in impacted units while professional cleaning and sanitization of impacted facilities is on-going. No additional details are being released at this time
in order respect the residents, their families and remain in accordance to HIPAA laws.

The Department of Human Services requests prayers for all their staff, on the front lines, daily caring for members of the public.

Governor Bryan Increases Enforcement for Restaurants, Boaters and Approves Fines for People Not Wearing Masks

August 10, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – During his weekly briefing on Monday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. issued new mandates in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the Territory, including limiting funerals to groups of 10, closure of restaurants that don’t comply with the executive orders, confiscating of boats that engage in “rafting” or tying up together and fines for those caught not wearing a mask in places where it is required.

The Governor also reiterated the point that of the three groups of COVID-19 cases, travelers comprise the fewest number of positive infections with 69, while community spread accounts for 145 cases and 268 are attributed to close contact with someone who was positive for the virus.

“In this pandemic, we cannot afford to go on hunches. We must let the data be the guide,”Governor Bryan said. “Following the data, we know that our main vulnerability for the spread of this virus is at social events occurring in our community where individuals are not adhering to
the guidelines issued by the CDC and the Department of Health.”

To curb the spread of the virus in the Territory, Governor Bryan instituted new mandates.

Funerals
All funerals or memorials are limited to immediate family members only and no more than 10
family members at any one time.

Restaurants
Restaurants have been put on notice that Enforcement Officers will be strictly enforcing all applicable guidelines to operations of restaurants during COVID-19. Any violators will be subject to closure for 30 days and imposition of an administrative fine by the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs.

Boaters
There shall be no “rafting” (boats tying up together) in any bays or anchorages of the Territory and all vessels must be 12 feet apart at all times, except in the case of a medical emergency.

Also, no vessels are allowed to anchor in any designated swimming area. Violations of these boating restrictions can result in a fine of up to $10,000 per incident and possible seizure by the Government of the Virgin Islands.

Masking
Individuals found to be in violation of the masking order will be subject to a fine of $50 for the first offense and $100 for each additional offense.

Governor Bryan said the COVID-19 spread currently is worst in the St. Thomas-St. John District, where there are almost 100 active cases on St. Thomas alone. Unlike on St. Croix, where it was possible to trace the nexus of the virus spread at the Limetree Bay facility, Department of Health officials are unable to determine a “ground zero,” and the place where the spread is occurring is not at all obvious, the Governor said.

“We cannot continue to have a policy where all the innocent suffer for the few guilty. We will be enforcing these mandates beginning today, and we will be unforgiving,” Governor Bryan said.

“No exceptions. We will fine you, confiscate your boat and close your business if we must. This pandemic is not going away any time soon, and we must adapt to life around it.”

Unemployment
• To date, the Virgin Islands Department of Labor has issued 28,448 unemployment checks totaling $21,453,946.
• The Department of Labor also has issued an additional 23,647 federal Pandemic
Unemployment Assistance (PUA) totaling $36,369,000.

• The department has begun the distribution of unemployment compensation for self-
employed individuals, independent contractors and other workers who ordinarily are ineligible for unemployment and has issued 15 PUA checks totaling $34,518.
• The Department of Labor COVID-19 hotline is 1-877-374-0356.
COVID-19 cases
• Currently tracking 128 active cases
• 10,905 individuals tested to date (more than 10% of the population)
• 10,357 of those tests were negative

VI Office of Management & Budget Reorganizes, Sets Up New Division Within

August 8,2020

In complying with the Governor’s Management Agenda and Executive Order No. 497-2020,Director Jenifer C. O’Neal is pleased to announce the reorganization of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), including the formation of two NEW business Divisions to provide you with more efficient and effective services. OMB has consolidated units and shifted
management and personnel to fill known gaps and lead new initiatives.

The most notable change is the creation of the Performance Management Division and the Budget Review Division. Both Divisions, independently, will support the fiscal requests and needs of agencies while improving on GVI’s strategic direction and the efficient fiscal
management of government resources.

Kevin McCurdy has been named the Associate Director of Budget Review and assigned to lead the Budget Review Division, a combination of the former Policy Management Unit and Budget Administration Unit. Denelle Baptise has been named the Sr. Performance Manager and leads
the Performance Management Division and the transition to performance/priority-based budgeting within GVI as mandated by 3 VIC Sections 22-27.

Additionally, Associate Director Hilarie Baker will lead our efforts to become compliant with the Special Conditions imposed by the United States Department of Education. Ms. Baker will also assist the Department of Human Services and the Office of the Governor with the management of all of their federal grants. These changes took effect on Monday, August 3, 2020.

VITEMA Announces ‘Blue Skies’ Distribution of Sandbags and Sand Territory-wide

August 7,2020
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) is announcing that sandbags and sand will be distributed territory-wide on Thursday, August 13, 2020, and Tuesday, August 18, 2020, to residents whose property is susceptible to flooding.
 
“Normally, we issue sandbags and sand only when there is an imminent threat of flooding during the hurricane season,” said VITEMA Director Daryl Jaschen. “However, in consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to take precautions to protect personnel working at our distribution sites and the general public, we have adjusted our procedures to distribute sandbags and sand safely under blue skies – when there is no immediate threat of flooding.”
 
VITEMA, in collaboration with the departments of Public Works, Health, V.I. Police and the V.I. Fire Service, has updated the territory’s Sandbag Distribution Plan to include new protocols specific to the dynamic nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new guidelines direct that mitigation strategies – such as social distancing, increased hygiene and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – be followed during the distribution of sandbags and sand. All personnel providing support at distribution sites are required to don PPEs and practice social distancing in accordance with the V.I. Department of Health’s guidance.
 
Sandbags and sand will be distributed between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Thursday, August 13, 2020, and Tuesday, August 18, 2020, to residents only, and a total of six (6) bags will be allotted per household.
 
At VI Fire Stations, residents should be prepared to fill the six (6) sandbags with shovels and sand made available at each station. Firefighters will provide special assistance to the elderly and the physically challenged population. Individuals will be required to wear masks and utilize the portable on-site hand washing stations before and after filling their bags to reduce COVID-19 risk. Individuals will be required to complete a Sandbag Distribution Form before filling their sandbags. VI Police will be on-location to provide access control and ensure proper social distancing is maintained.
 
At Public Works locations, six (6) pre-filled sandbags will be loaded by employees to residents’ vehicles. There will be no need to exit the vehicle, but each vehicle occupant will be required to wear a mask to reduce COVID-19 risk and complete the Sandbag Distribution Form before leaving. VI Police will be on-location to provide traffic flow to and from the loading area.
 
Sandbags and sand will be distributed at the following sites:
 
St. Croix
Department of Public Works, Estate Anna’s Hope
Department of Public Works, Estate Concordia West
Renceliar Gibbs Fire Station, Cotton Valley
Charles A. Seales Fire Station, Grove Place
August 7, 2020
ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The Virgin Islands Fire Service advises the public that the Herbert L. Canegata Fire Station, located in Estate Richmond, has been temporarily closed due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19. The station will be cleaned and sanitized
prior to its reopening on Monday, August 10, 2020.

The closure should not impact the agency’s emergency operations. Personnel assigned to the station will be temporarily reassigned to the agency’s other three fire stations; and, once sanitized, equipment will also be reassigned.

Employees who may have been exposed have been required to quarantine until testing can beconducted.

“The safety of our employees and the public is paramount, and we are doing everything we can to ensure everyone remains protected,” said VIFS Director Daryl A. George.

Governor Bryans Asks Legislature For 60-day Extension to State of Emergency

August 5,2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Tuesday sent a request to the 33rd Legislature asking for an extension to the current State of Emergency Order, which currently is in effect until Monday, August 10.
 
The Governor is requesting an extension for the order to October 9.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that as of August 3, 2020, the Coronavirus Disease, the sever acute respiratory illness that can spread among humans through respiratory transmission and presents itself with symptoms similar to those of influenza, has sickened more than 4,649,102 people and killed over 154,471 in the U.S. alone,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter to Senate President Novelle Francis Jr.

“Because the USVI is a travel destination it is not immune to COVID-19 and will remain at risk as long as it remains rampant throughout the U.S. and the world,” the Governor wrote. “The threat of COVID-19 is even more impactful to our Territory as the 2020 Hurricane season is actively upon us, with the early arrival of storms and hurricanes looming out at sea.”

In his letter, Governor Bryan requests that the Legislature suspend the portion of Title 23 of the V.I. Code limiting declared states of emergency to 30-day renewal periods.
 
“COVID-19 is unpredictable at this time but projected to last another several months, up to a year,” The Governor wrote.
 
Governor Bryan said a 60-day extension is more feasible and avoids having to call a Legislative session every month so as not to expose the Legislature and its staff to COVID-19.

Travelers Being Screened at Both Airports in the US Virgin Islands

Ahugust 3, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Virgin Islands National Guard personnel are busy screening passengers at both of the Territory’s airports.

Guardsmen and Guardswomen assist passengers with filling out health questionnaires, taking thermal temperatures of travelers who arrive and checking for COVID-19 test results.

The V.I. National Guard are working with staff from the Departments of Health and Tourism, and the Virgin Islands Port Authority oversees the operations at King Airport on St. Thomas and Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix.

 

Governor Bryan Took Action on Several Bills, Signed Bill Appropriating $8.2M to Complete Stadium in Frederiksted

July 31, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has taken action on 22 measures, vetoing six of the measures and signing 16 of them into law.

Among the measures the Governor approved is Bill No. 33-0077, which is focused on preventing financial exploitation and abuse of elderly persons and dependent adults. However, the Governor also recommended revising the bill to include any exploitation of those persons, not just financial exploitation; strengthening punishments and penalties; and fixing language so the bill will allow the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services to request certain financial records that are allowed to be obtained by only federal entities and law enforcement agencies.

Governor Bryan also signed into law Bill No. 33-0275, which allows appropriation of $8.2 million from the Revenue Matching Fund from FY 2020 ad 2021 for the construction of Paul E. Joseph Stadium on St. Croix. However, the Governor also reminded the Legislature that the original request was for the $8.2 million from FY 2020 because an additional $3 million will be needed in FY 2021 to complete the stadium as designed.

“The Legislature having appropriated the $8.2 million across both FY 2020 and FY 2021 will result in the Government’s need to come back to the Legislature for an additional request for funding if we truly intend to adequately complete the stadium project maintaining the superior quality the Virgin Islands expects,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter to Senate President Novelle Francis Jr.

Governor Bryan vetoed six of the measures put before him for a variety of reasons.

The Governor said he vetoed Bill No. 33-0054, which sought to enhance business opportunities for local and resident businesspersons by establishing the “Virgin Islands Small and Local Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Act,” because it contained critical statutory errors that were pointed out but not corrected.

“Principally among these corrections needed is the merger of the Small Business Development Administration into the Economic Development Bank, which is operated within the Economic Development Authority,” the Governor wrote. “The bill references the Small Business Development Agency throughout. This agency no longer exists.”

The Governor also said that similar programs to the one that would be created by the bill already exist within the Department of Property and Procurement, Department of Public Works, Housing Finance Authority and the Small Business Development Center.

“All of these programs and agencies provide similar services, assistance and reporting as proposed in the Bill. There is no reference in the Bill how this proposed new function within EDA would run concurrently, collaboratively or duplicative with these other agencies,” Governor Bryan wrote. “It is necessary that this issue be addressed by bringing these separate programs into the collaborative administration by an economic development authority.”

The Governor also vetoed Bill No. 33-0106 that seeks to regulate the use of drones in the Territory. The bill also comprises a number of non-germane amendments, including sections pertaining to protections for coral reefs from chemicals used in sunscreens; restrictions for registered sex offenders regarding operating drones; and exemptions for where gas stations can be located.

Regarding the section on coral reef protections, Governor Bryan wrote: “I urge this Legislature to meet with the experts from our Department of Planning and Natural Resources and the University of the Virgin Islands to craft the proper amendment to this law in order to protect our coral reefs properly and avoid deleting words and creating loopholes in the V.I. Code for manufacturers and vendors to bypass the purpose of this law.”

“I urge the Legislature to act on the different sections of this bill independently and to involve the necessary experts and practitioners in crafting of the amendments in order to present the people of the Virgin Islands with clear and enforceable laws,” the Governor wrote.

Regarding Bill No. 33-0217, which seeks to establish more public restrooms in Charlotte Amalie, Governor Bryan said he vetoed it because it encroaches on executive authority to implement capital improvement projects.

“The Administration already has plans underway to utilize the site at 48b Norre Gade and the adjacent lot and is looking at alternative sites for public restrooms,” the Governor wrote. “Further, the Bill lacks flexibility in its operation and use of the site and does not provide a funding source or personnel for the activities it mandates.”

The Governor vetoed Bill 33-0320, a rezoning request for “Parcel No. 5” in Estate Honduras on St. Thomas because it has an incorrect property description.

“Even a minute mistake in the legal description in a document or legislation affecting land and property can cause unforeseen consequences for years to come affecting the rights of an owner,” Governor Bryan wrote.

Regarding Bill 33-0335, which seeks to restructure the makeup of the Cannabis Advisory Board, the Governor wrote: “I must also veto Bill No. 33-0335 as the Governor has pending legislation that should be promptly considered by the Legislature and that will revise the Cannabis Use program substantially. Any amendments to the composition of the Board should be made in that legislation.”

Governor Bryan said he vetoed Bill No. 33-0338 because it would essentially allow the Legislature to run the GERS Board, rendering the Board and its members’ authority null and void. The Governor said the bill is too broad and overrides the purpose of the Board because it mandates the Legislature to have blanket approval and power over any policies created by GERS Trustees.

“If the Legislature’s intent is to prohibit or allow annuities to existing retirees benefits to be reduced, the Legislature should so state its intent specifically,” Governor Bryan wrote.

Governor Bryan Lifts Curfew, Reopens Government Offices

July 30, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – During a storm-impact press conference Thursday morning, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said he lifted the curfew as of 6 a.m. Thursday, July 30, and that government offices will reopen at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The Territory’s seaports were still closed as of the Governor’s press conference, and the U.S. Coast is conducting an assessment. Government workers who take the ferry between St. Thomas and St. John are excused from reporting to work until further notice.

The Territory’s airports are open and functioning as normal, although Seaborne and Cape Air have cancelled flights on Thursday, July 30.

President Trump Approves Emergency Disaster Declaration For the U.S. Virgin Islands

July 29, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – President Trump has approved Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s request for an emergency disaster declaration for the weather system that moved through the Territory on Wednesday, July 29.

Governor Bryan submitted his request on Monday, in advance of the storm’s impact. On Wednesday, the Governor also issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency that establishes a curfew from 12 a.m. Thursday, July 30 through 12 p.m. Thursday, July 30 and authorizes the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs to declare a price freeze.

DLCA Commissioner Richard Evangelista executed the price freeze on Wednesday, July 29.

Regarding the federal declaration, FEMA announced federal disaster assistance has been made available to the Territory to supplement its response efforts in the areas affected by Potential Tropical Cyclone Nine from Monday, July 27 and continuing.

Federal funding is available to the territory, eligible local governments, and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures at 75 percent federal funding. This assistance is available for St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas and Water Island.

William L. Vogel has been named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal response operations in the affected area. Additional designations may be made at a later date if warranted by the results of the damage assessments.

Governor Bryan has scheduled a press conference for 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 30 to report on the storm’s impact. He also plans to make a determination about reopening government offices – which he closed from 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 29 through Thursday, July 30 – and the status of the curfew that is in place until noon Thursday.

The press conference will be carried by local radio stations and streamed live on the Government’s page at facebook.com/governmenthouseusvi.

 

VIWMA LIFTS BAN ON GREEN WASTE, SEAWEED AND METALS AT ANGUILLA LANDFILL

July 24, 2020

(St. Croix) The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (“VIWMA” or “Authority”) Preserving Paradise team advises the community that the St. Croix Anguilla Landfill has lifted the ban on green waste, seaweed and metals. These wastes can now be taken to the landfill during regular working hours; weekdays, 6 am to 2:30 pm and on weekends 6 am to 12 noon.

Businesses are hereby reminded; it is against the law for waste generated at commercial establishments to be deposited at residential bin sites. Commercial waste must be taken to the landfill for disposal. Additionally, bulk waste, including mattresses, appliances, furniture and other large items are prohibited at the residential bin sites and must be disposed of at the landfill.

Improperly disposed propane tanks pose a fire hazard at the landfill. Prior to disposal all propane tanks must be emptied, depressurized and de-capped. These regulations apply to all propane tanks, including those attached to vehicles or appliances, as well as campfire propane tanks. Residents can dispose of unwanted propane tanks by returning them to the propane company or have a professional depressurize the tank. Tanks are disposed of in the metals section of the landfill.

To report illegal dumping, please call the 24-Hour Hotline at 844-WMA-USVI (844-962-8784). It’s our home! Let’s keep it clean!

In the Midst of the Pandemic STT Painting Company Makes Contribution to Community

July 23, 2020

When Walter I. Bostwick, founder and president of First Resort Painting, realized in order to keep his dozens of workers employed as COVID-19 began to ravage the local economy – halting some major construction projects – the first thing he did was to apply for the federal Payroll Protection Plan. The second thing he did was to look for community service opportunities.

“I wanted to keep my men and women working, while we looked for enough paying work to keep everyone employed,” he said. “That was most important.” “I have worked with some of these people for 20 years,” Bostwick said. “This company is built by the people in the field doing the work.”

The first big community job to be completed was for the Enid Baa Library building in downtown Charlotte Amalie. Bostwick said, “If it wasn’t for libraries, I would never have gotten to where I am today,”

It was not the first time First Resort Painting had painted the historic structure which was built in the late 1700s and reconstructed in 1937 after it fell into dangerous disrepair. First Resort won the bid and painted the building with Custom Builders under contract for the U.S. Virgin Islands government in 2008.

The Enid Baa project was in partnership with the Department of Planning and Natural Resources which oversees the territory’s library system. “Arlene L. Pinney-Benjamin of the Division of Libraries and Jean Pierre Oriol, Commisioner of DPNR were excited about the upgrade to the Enid M. Baa,” Bostwick said, “But the guy who really chipped in was Vincent Smith, the head of maintenance. “Mr. Smith was there for us on site almost every day, even before 7 a.m. if we needed to start early, It would have been twice as hard without his help.”

Bostwick, who came to St. Thomas when he was 17 years old, founded First Resort Painting in 2006.

Bostwick is confident that the local economy will pick up soon enough. “There is much rebuilding to be done and the recovery money is in place from the 2017 hurricane devastation to do it. The community has responded to the bright, newly painted building re-constructed in the mid-to- late 1930's with a total of 785 “thumbs up” and counting on a St. Thomas centric Facebook page. A testament to the power of community service.

Property & Procurement Temporarily Closes St. Croix Office to Mitigate COVID-19 Risks

July 22, 2020

ST. CROIX, USVI – The Department of Property and Procurement has temporarily closed its St. Croix Office effective Monday, July 20, 2020 due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19. As a result, all St. Croix team members will work from home remotely until testing has been completed and the personnel is cleared by the Department of Health to resume normal office operations.

The arms of the Divisions of Central Stores and the Central Motor Pool in the St. Croix District will remain closed until further notice. Agencies requiring services from these Divisions should make contact with the Department to request a waiver for products and services to be procured outside of the Department during this time. Additionally, steps have been taken to have the entire facility cleaned and sanitized to ensure the safety of our employees and the public upon reopening.

The Department remains functional, therefore, government agencies, vendors, and the public that conduct business with the Department are encouraged to call the St. Thomas Office at 340.774.0828 or visit our websites at http://dpp.vi.gov and www.usvileasing.com. We also engage with the public via our social media handle @DPPUSVI on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

VIDA Obligated $715K to Renovate Ancillary Facilities in Support of Abattoir a Press Release from the Office of Disaster Recovery

July 21, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands -- The Office of Disaster Recovery announces that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has obligated $715,091 in funding to the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture (VIDA). These funds will assist with repairs to animal pens, the veterinary building, and abattoir for damages caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

At this time, livestock is not extensively housed on the grounds of the VIDA. When construction is complete, the department will be able to bring pigs, sheep, chickens, cattle, and goats back on site. Having these animals on site will give VIDA the tools they need to offer training opportunities to local farmers and the community. These improvements will also help to support the functions of the abattoir and its operations on St. Croix.

“The Department of Agriculture is working diligently to provide much needed agricultural services to the community. This obligation will give us the funds to begin the process of permanently reconstructing these facilities to meet the USDA Food and Safety Inspection Standards,” said VIDA Commissioner, Positive T.A. Nelson.

Increasing VIDA’s capacity to carry out the business of agriculture is essential to creating and maintaining a supplemental food supply. “The Office of Disaster Recovery continues to support the VIDA in their efforts to restore the department to its full functionality,” Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Office of Disaster Recovery Director. “The VIDA has 11 additional projects going through the process for funding for which we are working closely with FEMA to secure the necessary funding to assist VIDA in its restoration.”

VIDA will be soliciting contractors to perform the required services. To be notified about this and other disaster recovery solicitations, visit http://www.usviodr.com/doing-business-with-odr/.

Governor Bryan Issues Executive Order Granting Coronavirus Scholarships to High School Grads

July 17, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has issued an executive order granting high school graduates a supplemental scholarship of $1,000 because of hardships that resulted from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Territory’s residents and the education system.

The scholarships are available to all high school, home school, trade school and GED graduates of the spring of 2020 whose permanent residence is the U.S. Virgin Islands at the time of graduation and who have been accepted into a college, university or other post-secondary education or advanced vocational or trade school.

The supplemental scholarship can be used to pay for tuition and other education expenses and will be paid through the Virgin Islands Board of Education from funds received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) educational funding.

To qualify, a graduate must submit an application to the Board of Education, a letter indicating how the graduate has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, proof of graduation and a letter of acceptance into a college, university or other post-secondary education or advanced vocational or trade school.

If a graduate does not complete the first semester of their respective college, university or advanced vocational or trade school, the funds will be returned to the Government of the Virgin Islands. The GVI is allocating $1 million received from the CARES Act educational funding for the supplemental scholarships.

“The pandemic is projected to last through the summer of 2020 and may re-emerge in fall of 2020 and it will require continuing diligence in combatting the pandemic,” Governor Bryan said in his executive order. “Many of the parents of graduates have been, and continue to be, affected emotionally and financially by the implementation of the prohibitive phases of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ Online Services Currently Under Maintenance

July 16, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS— Director Barbara Jackson-McIntosh would like to inform the motoring public that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ (BMV) Online Services is currently under maintenance. We anticipate the E-Servicing website to be operational on Wednesday, July 22, 2020.

Governor Bryan Issues Proclamation Celebrating Bastille Day and French Heritage Week

July 14, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has issued a proclamation celebrating Bastille Day, July 14, and French Heritage Week the week of July 13 in honor of the Territory’s French Heritage and Culture.

Bastille Day is celebrated by France and those of French origin as Fête Nationale in observance of the anniversary of the storming and liberation of the state prison, the Bastille, and the people imprisoned therein on July 14, 1789, in Paris during the French Revolution.

“In the Virgin Islands the French Heritage Community, many of whom came to the Virgin Islands from Guadeloupe, St. Barth’s and St. Martin, has played a major role in our culture and economic life and continues to do so,” Governor Bryan said in the proclamation.

ANGUILLA LANDFILL RESUMES OPERATIONS

July 9, 2020

(St. Croix, USVI) - The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (‘VIWMA” or “Authority”) Preserving Paradise team advises the community and solid waste haulers of the resumption of operations at the Anguilla Landfill beginning Friday, July 10.

Operations at the landfill were suspended when an active fire was reported at 6 am, Thursday July 9. The fire was suppressed by the Virgin Islands Fire Service (VIFS) along with VIWMA staff and contractors.

 

Virgin Islands Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act

July 8, 2020

ST. CROIX – The Virgin Islands ADA Anniversary Committee will be celebrating the landmark civil rights legislation in a series of virtual events open to the public for the month of July 2020. Events include special programming on WTJX with free screenings of independent films “Intelligent Lives” and “Including Samuel;” three webinars co-hosted with the USVI EDA, VISBDC, and DRCVI; a commemorative celebration that will be broadcast on WTJX on July 26th; special guests on local radio shows; and a social media campaign highlighting disability rights advocates and members of the VI community with disabilities.

The Committee is comprised of the following: Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands, ADA Coordinator for the Office of the Governor of the Virgin Islands, the Virgin Islands Association for Independent Living, the Virgin Islands Developmental Disability Council, and the Virgin Islands University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.

Amelia Headley LaMont, Executive Director of the Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands, shared her thoughts on the significance of the anniversary in the VI, “We are proud to be a part of the celebration of this important step in civil rights. We are honored to have had the privilege of collaborating with pioneers in our community, who at great personal risk took their time to advance a more inclusive community; and we are excited about the prospect of working with a new generation of change makers.”

Activities for the anniversary will be posted on the Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands’ website at www.drcvi.org/resources/ada-30-vi. The public can keep up with the committee by following all of the member groups on their Facebook pages and can participate in the anniversary by using the hashtags #ADA30, #ThanksToTheADA, and #ADA30VI on social media.

V.I. FIRE SERVICE CAUTIONS AGAINST POTENTIAL FIRE HAZARDS AT LOCAL SERVICE STATIONS

July 6, 2020.

V.I. Fire Service Director Daryl George wishes to caution local service station owners, employees and the general public against potential fire hazards and unsafe practices recently observed at several local service stations.

Fuel station owners, employees, and the general public are reminded that smoking materials, including matches and lighters, may not be used within 20 feet (6 meters) of any area used for fueling, servicing fuel systems for internal combustion engines, or receiving or dispensing of Class 1 liquid. Class 1 liquids are defined as any liquid having a flash point of less than one hundred degrees Fahrenheit (1000 F) and include gasoline, naphtha and associated petroleum products. Gas station owners are required, by law, to post conspicuous and legible signs prohibiting smoking within the sight of the customer being served.

The motors/engines of all equipment being fueled must be shut off during the fueling operation; except for emergency generators or pumps, where continuing operation is essential. Gas pumps and stations shall cease fuel distribution while gasoline tankers are refilling service station tanks. Gasoline produces vapors that are easily ignitable. Additionally, gasoline vapor is heavier than air and consequentially spreads low at ground level. Potentially dangerous conditions are created when gasoline tankers are refilling the station’s tanks while customers are simultaneously permitted to pump gas within the proximity of varied heat sources such as engines and electrical parts.

In order to ensure the continued safety of service station employees, customers and the general public, it is the responsibility of each service station to make sure that the above orders are properly complied with at all times.

Anyone found in violation of this order shall be subject to a fine of not more than $500.00 or imprisoned not more than one year or both.

ENERGY OFFICE REBATE PROGRAM ENDS

July 3, 2020

ST. CROIX, USVI – The Virgin Islands Energy Office (VIEO) would like to inform all USVI residents of the conclusion of the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Financial Incentive Program. We will not be accepting any new applications for purchases made after July 2. However, if you made your purchase up to July 1, you can still apply, but funds are limited, so we cannot guarantee that you will receive a rebate.

Many residents and small business owners received 40 percent rebates on select ENERGY STAR® products purchased in the USVI. Each household had the potential to receive up to $5,000 in rebates. This program targeted homeowners, renters, and small businesses by assisting them in reducing their energy consumption and carbon footprint by providing a financial incentive to purchase energy-efficient appliances, building materials and products, Solar Rating & Certification Corporation (ICC-SRCCTM) solar water heater systems, and zero-emission vehicles. 

ENERGY STAR® is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that promotes the development and sale of high-quality energy-efficient products that exceed the federal specifications for energy use. Visit www.energystar.gov/productfinder to access their database of certified products and for buying guidance.

VIDOL Provides Update on Implementation of Unemployment Insurance Programs Administered Under the CARES Act

June 29, 2020.

USVI -On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. This law created five (5) new federal programs. In addition, Governor Bryan signed an agreement on the same day to implement four (4) of the five (5) programs in the Virgin Islands, outside of the regular Unemployment Insurance program.

The update on VIDOL’s implementation of these CARES Act programs are as follows:

• Temporary full federal funding of the first week of compensable regular unemployment for states with no waiting week. All work search requirements for persons receiving unemployment benefits territory- wide were waived for individuals who are affected during the health emergency. VIDOL has been implementing this program since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)– An additional $600 per week, on top of regular benefits, to all eligible UI recipients -- VIDOL continues to implement this program since May 27, 2020, with retroactivity to April 4, 2020.

VIDOL intends to implement the following programs in the coming weeks:

• Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – Provides compensation for person affected by the Coronavirus, but that would traditionally be ineligible for UI benefits (e.g., self-employed workers, independent contractors, gig workers, etc). The implementation of this program will start on July 6, 2020. Individuals that fall into this category need to begin to complete the regular online unemployment insurance application at www.vidol.gov. Once the application has been filed and processed, applicants will receive a denial letter (Monetarily Ineligible), and then the applicant will be contacted by the Division of Unemployment Insurance to complete the PUA application process. PUA applicants will be required to self-attest to one of the ten COVID-19 reasons.

• Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – An additional 13 weeks of UI benefits, to eligible individuals who have exhausted or ended regular unemployment compensation. This program will also begin implementation on Monday, July 6, 2020. Individuals that fall into the category for this program will be contacted by the Division of Unemployment Insurance.

According to Commissioner Molloy, “VIDOL has fully administered two (2) of the four (4) programs under the CARES Act to date and will be implementing the final two programs on July 6, 2020. With the implementation of the PUA, we are anticipating another 3,000-4,000 applications”.

“At this point, VIDOL has received over 11,000 applications. We are diligently processing the applications and converting them into claims, processing continued weekly claims, and issuing checks daily. Also, VIDOL acknowledges that many individuals have not received assistance to date. The Department continues to work feverishly to ensure that only those who are eligible to receive benefits do so,” stated Commissioner Gary Molloy.

VIDOL LIFT Summer 2020 Program

June 29, 2020

USVI-June 29, 2020- Commissioner Gary Molloy announces the official kick-off of the VI Department of Labor’s (VIDOL) 2020 Summer Labor Investing For Tomorrow’s Program (LIFT), that will take place July 1-August 28, 2020. All the candidates that applied for the 2020 LIFT program were selected. The application process remained the same with the required essay, eligible applicants must be in their 3 rd or 4 th year of college, and have a Grade Point Average (GPA) no lower than a 2.8. During the COVID-19 State of Emergency, VIDOL was able to make some creative changes to secure the viability of the program. This year’s program will feature a virtual project-based and/or role specific structure that would include learning outcomes that expose interns to self-directed and prescribed career skills.

“These changes could not come at a better time. As the Department uses the national data to streamline the science of employment training for our youth, we see that the demand for these skills in telework and virtual service is increasing. This program will give an intensive outlook on the skill requirements that are emerging and evolving. Our youth now have an opportunity to be a part of a robust program that prepares them for the future in a way that has never been seen before,” stated Commissioner Gary Molloy.

Key changes in workforce data indicate that “there are 53 million freelancers in America today. By 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers.”

The skills needed for the future workforce such as Time Management, Project Management, Problem Solving Data Gathering & Business Analysis, Influencing/Selling, and Communication Skills.

Some character traits include being a Self-starter, Self-driven; Motivated, Change Agile, Flexible, Good Networkers.

The LIFT Business Challenge Project Key Goals:

 Interns are introduced to future demands in job specification that the experience will closely align to.  Interns receive a meaningful project that helps develop the skills that will be needed for today’s workforce.  Reporting and receiving regular feedback to support the intern’s growth and development.  Engage in a virtual environment that represents a cutting edge use of technology that gives a competive edge to LIFT Interns.

 

Department of Human Services Announces Licensing Requirements and New Rules and Regulations for Re-Opening Child Care Programs and Summer Camps

June 26, 2020

(US VIRGIN ISLANDS) - Department of Human Services (DHS) has released its statutory, licensing requirements, rules, and regulations regarding the re-opening of child care programs and summer camps. “It is critical, especially as we continue to evaluate the safety of group activities and settings during this COVID-19 Pandemic, that anyone or any entity planning to re-open or operate any kind of child care program or summer camp be aware of and in compliance with the USVI statutes, licensing requirements and regulations for operating,” stated DHS Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez. According to V.I. Code Title 34 Section 383, “No person may operate a child day care facility for three or more unrelated children unless he or she holds a valid license issued by the Department of Human Services.” Individuals and entities operating out of compliance will be subject to statutory fines and immediate closure.

In March 2020, in accordance with CDC guidelines and to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Department of Human Services Office of Child Care and Regulatory Services informed all licensed child care facilities that they were required to reduce the number of children they were providing care for. Additionally, centers were informed that no more than ten people could be in the facility at any time. Most childcare facilities opted to totally close operations during April and May 2020.

Re-opening Guidelines In anticipation of meeting the needs of families as people are going back to work, the DHS Office of Child Care and Regulatory Services held meetings for all childcare facilities to share the re- opening guidelines considering COVID-19. All Child Care Operators are required to submit their re-opening plans to the Office of Child Care and Regulatory Services prior to re-opening on a larger scale.

A mandatory Summer Camp Guideline Meeting will held via teleconference on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. for the St. Thomas District and 3:00 p.m. for the St. Croix District. The purpose is to discuss the detailed summer camp guidelines and requirements. It is critical for providers and intended providers to call in.

Attendance will be taken.

Teleconference information: Teleconference Number 1-866-528-2256

Access Code: 7492456#

Summer Camps operating according to the guidelines will be allowed to open in July. “To help reduce the transmission of COVID-19, the Department of Human Services will require all Child Care Providers to follow new space requirements to be in line with social/physical distancing guidelines distributed by the Centers for Disease Control. Additionally, all staff will be required to wear masks, follow cleaning and sanitization requirements, and take mandatory daily temperatures of all adults and children entering the child care facilities,” explained Commissioner Causey-Gomez.

VIWMA LIFTS BAN ON GREEN WASTE AT BOVONI LANDFILL BAN STILL IN EFFECT AT ANGUILLA LANDFILL.

June 25, 2020.

(U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS) The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority  advises the community that the Bovoni Landfill will resume the acceptance of green waste and seaweed effective June 26 however, the ban is still in effect for the Anguilla Landfill on St. Croix.

The St. Croix public is asked to hold green waste and seaweed until further notice. VIWMA staff and contractors are working expeditiously to make the necessary adjustments to safely accommodate green waste at the Anguilla landfill.

Elective Surgeries and Outpatient Procedures Return to JFL Hospital

June 22, 2020

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, June 22, 2020 - The Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center Hospital (“JFL”) has resumed elective surgeries and outpatient procedures, effective June 23, 2020.

According to Interim Chief Executive Officer, Dyma B. Williams, RN, BSN, CPHRM, MJ, “Through the pandemic, JFL has performed urgent and emergent surgical cases, however, all other patients planning to have surgery or a procedure have had to place their medical care on hold. Elective does not mean the surgery is not necessary. It means that the surgery is planned and scheduled with advance notice. We are very happy to be able to, again, provide our community with the medical services they need to live safe, comfortable, and healthy lives. The JFL Team is proud to reinstate these services to our community.”

Elective surgeries were temporarily restricted at JFL and across the country to conserve hospital beds, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies. Before resuming elective surgeries at JFL, the first step was to ensure adequate resources are available. According to Williams, “Our resources have remained stable, making us well positioned to care for patients’ elective surgical needs. We thank the community for partnering with us in this effort.”

In preparation for the return of elective surgeries, JFL Leadership developed a plan for safely delivering care in the surgical setting and developing new safety protocols for the safety of patients undergoing procedures involving anesthesia, which include:

*All persons entering JFL are required to wear a mask.  All patients are screened for COVID-19 and are required to self-quarantine until their scheduled procedure. *Elective procedures are postponed if a patient tests positive.

 Pre-operative surgical/procedural anesthesia interviews with the patient are completed by phone, with anesthesia physical assessments completed the day of the procedure.  Visitation remains prohibited. In order to limit the number of people in the hospital waiting areas, one (1) support person is permitted for patients age 17 and younger, laboring mothers, NICU patients and patients who are incapacitated.  Physicians and staff are screened daily and wear the recommended personal protective equipment at all times.  Additional cleaning and disinfection measures are being performed in the operating rooms, waiting rooms and common areas.

Patients who wish to reschedule or schedule their elective surgery or outpatient procedure should contact their surgeon/physician.

JFL Congratulates Employees on Milestone Years of Service and Employee of the Year

June 19, 2020

Shenequa Dore, a Registered Nurse working in the Emergency Department of the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center, has been named Employee of the Year. Ms. Dore began her career at JFL in 1995 as a Summer Youth Employment Program worker and continued working successive summer breaks at JFL until earning her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of the Virgin Islands. She is the 2020 Employee of the Year for the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center.

In addition to recognizing Employee of the Year, JFL also recognizes the employees achieving milestone years of service. According to Interim Chief Executive Officer Dyma Williams, “JFL congratulates each person reaching a Years of Service Anniversary and the Employee of the Year. Each one of you has demonstrated a commitment and dedication to meeting the healthcare needs of the St. Croix community. JFL’s dedicated employees are the foundation of the sustainability and growth of JFL as a premier healthcare institution.”

5 Years of Service

Deborah Jones, RN,Joanne Cobb Joseph, RN, Sara Shaw, Certification Specialist, Krystal Desormeaux, Telemetry Technician,Melanie Bruce, Medical Technologist,Melisia Hanley, RN, Kristina Charles, Patient Access Representative, Michelle James, Admin. Care Coordinator, Tessa Lewis, Food Service Worker,Vercelie Caines, Medical Assistant, Margaret Ferreras, RN Timothy Buck, RN, Shanice Liburd, Certified Medical Assistant, Brenda La Force, Certified Medical Assistant Austin Andre, Certified Medical Assistant Leah Jules, Medical Assistant ,Jamie Marquis-Morris, Respiratory Therapist, Cheryl Leddy, RN

10 Years of Service

Sheila Woodley, Respiratory Therapist,Anna Williams, Housekeeping Attendant,Ernestine Burke,Housekeeping Attendant, Chantauh Marshall, RN,Anthony Benjamin, Gen. Maintenance, Alicia Gilbert-Joseph, Patient Access Rep.,Alicia Vigilant-Emmanuel, RN,Joshua Valentino, Surgical Technician, Angelica Ayala, Medical Technician,Kimberly Lundgren, Med. Social Worker.

Special Hourlong Virtual Town Hall Meeting About Behavioral Health Act Being Livestreamed Tonight

June 18, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Government House will livestream a special hourlong “Press Box” virtual town hall meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 18 about Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s proposed Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Act legislation on the Government House Facebook page at Facebook.com/GovernmentHouseUSVI.

Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion and Government House Health Policy Advisor Dr. Julia Sheen will be joined by Assistant Health Commissioner Nicole Craigwell-Syms, Territorial Director Of Behavioral Health Services Vernita Bicette and Deputy Commissioner of Public Health Services Renan Steele.

Residents are encouraged to participate and can ask questions in the “comments” section of the Facebook page.

USVI Department of Human Services Shows Support for World Elder Abuse Awareness Month

June 16, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Senior Citizen Affairs today joins hundreds of organizations, both public and private, around the world to bring awareness to Elder Abuse and the prevention of it.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June 15 annually) and World Elder Abuse Awareness Month aim to educate and empower people around the world to be a part of the critical network of safeguarding seniors in our homes and communities. Elder abuse can happen to anyone, but it is increasingly prevalent when seniors are isolated and alone with their abusers; for instance, during the present COVID-19 Pandemic. Many elders are unable to stand up or speak up for themselves either because of their ailments or because they are afraid of the repercussions. These are the reason why Elder Abuse Awareness Month is so very important.

No elder deserves to be abused, but unfortunately, it does occur. Elder abuse can be physical, verbal, emotional, sexual or financial. Elder abuse occurs when an older person is mistreated or harmed by a person or people they trust. Elders are often victimized by other family members, caregivers, friends or neighbors.

The Department of Human Services abhors Elder Abuse in ALL its forms and places the highest value on securing the safety of every vulnerable senior in the US Virgin Islands territory. The Office of Adult Protective Services (APS) is the arm within the Department that is legally mandated to investigate in a timely manner, all referrals of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation. APS is also responsible for arranging protective services that ensure safe living conditions for seniors.

If you suspect that you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation, call Adult Protective Services (APS) at the Department of Human Services. All calls and referrals are CONFIDENTIAL. Contact our St. Thomas APS office at: 340-774-0930 ext. 4239 Contact our St. Croix APS office at: 340- 642-8820

V.I. OFFICE OF THE GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION BILL HELD IN COMMITTEE

June 13, 2020

A measure seeking to establish and task the Virgin Islands Office of Gun Violence Prevention to develop effective strategies to reduce and prevent gun violence in the Virgin Islands was held in committee on Friday.

“The Virgin Islands rank third in the world for gun violence according to statistics from the United Nations. We have to be ambitious to eradicate gun violence in our community while dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic,” said Sen. Myron Jackson, sponsor of the bill.

To strengthen the bill, the Office of the Attorney General Denise George suggested establishing a timeline to analyze data, codifying a gun violence plan, and for the Office to collaborate with researchers from the University of the Virgin Islands and other academic institutions to assist with the process. In response to Sen. Sarauw’s inquiry whether there is a disconnect between the V.I. Police Department and the Department of Justice; George mentioned that both entities have a very good relationship and work closely to combat crime in the Territory.

The Virgin Islands Public Services Commission Approves Lower Rates for WAPA Customers

June 8, 2020

The Virgin Islands Public Services Commission has approved a reduction in electrical rates effective July 1, 2020. The approval represents an approximate 1.5 cent reduction in the per kilowatt hour rate for residential customers, and a similar reduction for commercial ratepayers. The rate reduction was proposed by the commission’s consultants and accepted by WAPA prior to a June 3 meeting of the PSC.

“Effective July 1, a residential customer utilizing 400 kilowatt hours per month will see a bill totaling $163 while a commercial customer’s bill for usage of 2,000 kilowatt hours will average $900,” said Executive Director Lawrence J. Kupfer.

Based on the approval, the per kilowatt rate for residential customers using less than 250 kilowatt hours per month is 38 cents, and the rate is at 40 cents for consumption greater than 251 kilowatt hours. Commercial customers will pay a rate of 45 cents per kilowatt hour.

The lower per kilowatt hour rate takes effect on July 1 and remains in effect through December 31. Customers will see the new rates reflected in bills issued in August which cover July’s electrical usage.

Kupfer noted that the new rate does not include deferred fuel costs and cautioned the PSC that future filings for LEAC adjustments will include a deferred fuel amount. The Authority, he said, will also file a deferred fuel reconciliation with the commission once Fiscal Year 2018 audited statements are completed.

USVI Department of Human Services Announces Federal Approval of Territory-wide Pandemic EBT Plan

June 12, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — On June 10, 2020, the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services (DHS) received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to implement a Pandemic EBT program (P-EBT) to provide food assistance to approximately 15,000 children and deliver over $5.6 million additional dollars to the Territory.

“We are grateful to our partners at the USDA, FNS Northeast Regional Office (NERO) for working closely with us to offer the P-EBT benefits at this critical time,” said DHS Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez. “With the full support of the Governor, our local team led by Assistant Commissioner Michal Rhymer-Browne and Division of Family Assistance Administrator Natalie Bailey worked tirelessly to craft our plan and partnered with the V.I. Department of Education and eligible local private schools to make P-EBT a reality for our territory.

“The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused high unemployment and an economic downturn in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but DHS is committed to keeping our Virgin Islands children safe, secure, and healthy during these challenging times,” Commissioner Causey-Gomez said. The Commissioner went on to state that DHS is working diligently with their EBT vendor to begin issuing P-EBT benefits in July 2020.

Who will receive P-EBT, how will they receive it, and how should it be used?

1. Each student enrolled in VI public schools and private schools who participates in the School Lunch program will receive a one-time benefit of $379.00 in July.

2. The benefit amount, determined by the federal agencies, will be placed on an EBT card and issued to the adult identified by the school as the parent or guardian for that student.

3. A parent or guardian responsible for more than one eligible student in their household will receive the total amount for all eligible students on the same card. (Ex. Three students in a household multiplied by $379 equals a total benefit amount of $1,137.00.)

VI Office of Veterans Affairs Collaborates With My Brother’s Workshop

June 6, 2020

The Virgin Islands Office of Veterans Affairs has enlisted the assistance of My Brother’s Workshop to manufacture flag cases locally for next-of-kin of deceased Veterans.

One of the events that take place as part of military burial honors is the presentation of a neatly folded United States Flag. That flag is authorized to be presented to the legal next- of-kin of deceased Veterans. More times than none, after presentation, these burial flags are used as keepsakes by family members to remember the long and faithful service rendered to the United States by their loved one. To assist with the longevity of the flag, the Office of Veterans Affairs joined with My Brother’s Workshop to create something that would assist in that endeavor. Trainees guided by members of the staff at My Brother’s Workshop created a masterpiece that will mark a significant difference from the usual plastic cases issued previously.

“I am absolutely pleased that we will be able to provide a sturdier flag case for the families of our deceased Veterans. Not only will it look better, but it will enhance the shelf life of this very important keepsake. Unfortunately, we will not be able retroactively issue flag cases”, said Director Farrell. For more information please reach out to the VI Office of Veterans Affairs using one

 

 

Virgin Islands NightClubs, Bars & Restaurants Can Have Live Entertainment Under Strict Guidlines

June 5, 2020

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) is informing the public and businesses that the Virgin Islands Government has developed Guidances to protect the community and avoid transmission of the COVID-19 virus. As such, the Virgin Islands Department of Health (VIDOH) have updated the COVID-19 Guidance for Restaurants, Bars and Nightclubs by allowing restricted live entertainment effective Monday, June 8, 2020.

Currently, there are no restrictions on live entertainment. However, effective June 8, 2020, live entertainment shall only be allowed pursuant to the VIDOH Guidance which clearly states that Live music or Disc Jockey (DJ) shall NOT be permitted AFTER 12 midnight. Restaurants, bars, and nightclubs must also be aware of the following:

Live band or DJs shall be set up with space of ten (10) feet between the band and patrons using social distancing principles. A clear barrier between live music and patrons may be considered but is not required. No live bands or DJs in open public areas. Event centers and banquet halls must comply with mass gathering mandates of less than 50 people or 50 percent of the occupancy capacity (whichever is less). Restaurant, bars, and nightclubs shall post COVID-19 Guidance in a prominent place in the business establishment.

For a copy of the COVID-19 Guidance for Restaurants, Bars and Nightclubs, you may visit DLCA website at www.dlca.vi.gov or contact the Virgin Islands Department of Health. The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs appreciates the public’s cooperation. Consumers or Merchants with questions may contact the Consumer Affairs Division on St. Croix at 713-3522, on St. Thomas at 714-3522 , or on St. John at 693-8036.

COMMUNITY RESIDENTS REVITALIZE POINT UDALL ON MOTHER’S DAY

June 3, 2020

ST. CROIX –Point Udall garnered some TLC on Mother’s Day this year, as local nurse Kathleen Arnold Lewis mobilized a beautification initiative. Accompanied by a group of volunteers including her daughter, son, and family friends – the crew donated their time and materials to tackle projects such as painting, pruning bushes, picking up trash and planting trees, to name a few.  Several friends donated desert rose and cactus plants, soil, planters, tools, as well as the United States and Virgin Islands flags for the flagpole.

“Point Udall is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in all my travels,” remarked Mrs. Lewis. “I think there’s an opportunity here to better promote this monument for the territory and to help beautify it so that more people can enjoy it. I started this project to inspire our community to do their part. Let us honor and cherish what we have.”

The Department of Public Works (DPW) erected the Millennium Monument in 2000, to commemorate the beginning of a new millennium for the United States. The public monument consists of a giant sundial as Point Udall is the first place the sun rises on US soil.

“I am encouraged when individuals take action to keep our community clean,” said DPW Commissioner Nelson Petty Jr., P.E. “Ms. Lewis has demonstrated her commitment to the environment, and we are grateful for the volunteers who partnered with her to help restore and maintain this historic landmark.”

Point Udall is the easternmost point of the Western Hemisphere and is part of 17 miles of protected shoreline and coral reefs encompassing the East End Marine Park.

USDA Approves Virgin Islands Hemp Plan

June 2, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the Virgin Islands Hemp Plan, which outlines the procedures and requirements for cultivating and producing hemp products in the Territory.

The plan, which is administered by the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture and Industrial Hemp Commission, includes provisions for maintaining information on the land where hemp is produced, testing the level of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), disposing of plants that do not meet the necessary licensing and other requirements and ensuring compliance with all USDA and other federal guidelines.

"This is very welcomed news for the territory," Governor Bryan said Monday. "Not only will this approval lead to the potential for an increase in our local export manufacturing, but it will also help us further diversify our economy and add new streams of revenue."

Governor Bryan also reiterated his call, Monday for Senate action on his administration's proposed expansion of the Medicinal Cannabis Patient Care Act, which aims to establish a taxed regulated system for the cultivation, manufacture, and distribution of Cannabis for Medical, Non-Certified, and Sacramental use

The revenues generated from the tax will go toward to the Territory's Government Employees Retirement System.

"I now call on the 33rd Legislature to act on the amended Cannabis legislation submitted by my administration in December and resubmitted two weeks ago to continue our forward push to establish new revenue streams to move us closer to shoring up the Government Employees Retirement System," Governor Bryan added.

Hemp is a term used to classify varieties of cannabis that contain 0.3% or less of THC, which is the psychoactive element in the plant. Hemp is considered a non-intoxicating part of cannabis that is harvested for the industrial use of its derived products and is one of the most durable natural fibers in the world.

Hemp is known to have more than 50,000 different uses, including textiles; clothing; foods; lotions, soaps, and cosmetics; pet bedding; mulch; paper products, such as newsprint, packaging, and cardboard; industrial products, such as oils, paints, and solvents; building materials; and technical textiles, such as netting, canvas, and carpeting.

By focusing on the different uses of hemp, the Virgin Islands hemp program intends to build its manufacturing sector and begin producing multiple crucial products that will be made in the Virgin Islands but be available for export and use around the world.

The Virgin Islands Hemp Plan is a comprehensive set of rules and regulations governing growing, inspections testing, and post-harvest activities; duties and responsibilities of extractors; labeling requirements for manufacturers; the use of USVI-approved certified seed; enforcement; and reporting and record-keeping requirements for growers and extractors.

The Virgin Islands Hemp Plan also contains provisions governing the University of the Virgin Islands' research and testing of hemp and hemp products.

US Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George Announced Friday that She Reached Deal with Jeffrey Epstein’s victims

May 29, 2020

The US Virgin Islands Attorney General Denise George announced Friday that she has reached a deal with Jeffrey Epstein’s victims over how his estate’s compensation fund should be run.

George previously raised questions about the victim fund — which would pay money to Epstein accusers who choose to settle rather than continue litigation — claiming there weren’t enough protections in place for the women.

Under the agreement, the fund would have safeguards in place including appointing a victim advocate, putting aside money for victims who may not have come forward yet or who opt out of the program, implementing protections to make sure information divulged by victims wouldn’t later be used against them and other measures, the AG said.

A VI judge must still approve the agreement.

“I’m hopeful the Agreement will receive final approval, so these women are able to receive the help they need,” George said in a statement.

William Blum, a lawyer for the executors, said his clients “are extremely pleased that the USVI Attorney General has dropped her opposition to the Epstein Victims’ Compensation Program, and allowed it to proceed as funded entirely by the Estate.”

“We are pleased that the parties have reached a resolution that allows victims the opportunity to resolve their sexual abuse claims through this independent, voluntary, non-adversarial process,” fund designers Camille Biros, Kenneth Feinberg and Jordana Feldman said. “Over the last several months, we designed the Program with the input of victims’ counsel and other interested parties, and we are preparing to move forward to implement the claims process.”

The 66-year-old convicted pedophile committed suicide in a Lower Manhattan jail cell as he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.

The hedge-funder left behind a $634 million fortune.

$1.6M Obligated to DSPR to Renew Public Beach Facilities on St. Croix

May 28, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands – The Office of Disaster Recovery (ODR) announces the obligation of $1,599,393 to the Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation (DSPR) to refurbish recreational facilities at two St. Croix beaches. FEMA’s Public Assistance Program will fund the replacement of damaged beachfront facilities at the Fort Frederik Beach in Frederiksted and Cramers Park on the east end of St. Croix.

The concession building at Cramers Park and the bathhouse at the Ft. Frederik Beach suffered severe wind and water damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, resulting in water infiltration and exterior damage to various building components limiting the availability of services to locals and tourists alike.

The concession stand at the east end beach has been closed since the 2017 storms, but temporary repairs were made to the bathrooms at Ft. Frederik permitting limited use. 

“The Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation is excited to restore these facilities for access for the people that turn to our beaches for exercise and relaxation,” said the Commissioner of the Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation, Mr. Calvert White. “The Department is pushing forward to get repairs made to these popular local beaches and all our facilities.”

Senator Gittens Identifies GVI Land for New Frederiksted Police Station

May 26, 2020.

ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - Senator Kenneth L. Gittens said Tuesday that he continues to take steps to support the Territory’s law enforcement officers, most recently prioritizing legislation that will allow for the construction of a new state-of-the-art police station in Frederiksted, St. Croix.

Senator Gittens’ bill calls for two acres - located at 51-A Hannah’s Rest, Frederiksted - now owned by the Virgin Islands Water & Power Authority to be transferred to the Virgin Islands Police Department and to have a new police station constructed with Community Development Block Grant Funds.

“Officers have been working in a building with very poor conditions and, as a result, have been forced to operate out of the mobile command unit without adequate space for performing all of their duties,” Senator Gittens said. “This proposed facility will be hardened in the event of a major storm and will resolve many ongoing logistical and labor concerns. VIPD must have a secure, functional and permanent station in Frederiksted. Further, this Government must construct and maintain its own buildings! We should not be paying exorbitant rents for what are often substandard facilities.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting of the Committee on Homeland Security, Justice, Public Safety & Veterans Affairs, Senator Gittens announced that he had prioritized the completion of the bill to transfer the property to VIPD.

“During today’s hearing I had to be somewhat critical as we are at a crisis point in terms of violent crime, and I was very disappointed in the responses from both the Police Department and the Office of the Attorney General,” the St. Croix Senator said. “It is my job to make sure these officials do theirs, but it is important to note that I have always made a point to help ensure that local law enforcement has the resources required to be effective. We can’t have people working in moldy offices and cramming multiple units into a small mobile command and expect the desired results.”

Senator Gittens noted that he continues to encourage the VIPD Commissioner to be aggressive in securing CDBG-MIT funding and that he hoped to introduce the land transfer bill at the next scheduled Committee on Homeland Security, Justice, Public Safety & Veterans Affairs and bring it forward for consideration of the full body at the next scheduled Legislative Session.

 

VIRGIN ISLANDS FIRE SERVICE ISSUES TERRITORY-WIDE BURN BAN

May 22, 2020

Due to dry weather conditions, the Virgin Islands Fire Service has issued a ban on burning.

Effective May 22, 2020, all outdoor burning will be temporarily prohibited in the Territory.

Existing burn permits will be suspended, and no new permits will be issued.

For additional information, residents and businesses may contact the Arson Investigation and Prevention Units (Prevention Units) in their respective district. The Prevention Unit in the St. Thomas/St. John District can be reached at 340-774-7610, and the Prevention Unit in the St. Croix District can be reached at 340-773-8050.

Auto Accident on St.Thomas Polyberg Hill Leaves One Man Dead

May 20, 2020

ST. THOMAS, USVI – On May 18 at around 4:54 p.m., the 911 Emergency Call Center received a report of an auto accident on Polyberg Hill involving a motorcycle.

The investigation into the incident revealed that a vehicle was turning onto Polyberg Hill when the rider of the motorcycle, which was traveling west, applied brakes to avoid hitting the vehicle. The rider lost control of the motorcycle, eventually hitting the vehicle.

The rider of the motorcycle, who was transported from the scene to the Roy Lester Schneider Regional Medical Center via ambulance for treatment, later succumbed to his injuries. He was identified as 28-year-old Uric Smith, Sr. of Oswald Harris Court.

This incident is under investigation. Anyone with information that can help police close this investigation is urged to call 911 or the Traffic Investigation Bureau at (340) 774-2211

VI Office of Veterans Affairs Launches Agency Website

May 18, 2020

The Virgin Islands Office of Veterans Affairs is happy to announce the launching of their agency website. This will be the first of its kind in the modern-day history of the agency.

Veterans will now be able to access most services of the agency virtually because of having this website. Being able to make a request of their veteran eligibility status, education tuition waivers, medical travel reimbursements, and registration are just a few of the benefits of having the newly created website. Family members of Veterans will also be able to request burial reimbursements if they find themselves in that situation. In addition to services, Veterans and their families will be able to view policies related to the office, changes to both local and federal benefits and entitlements, and keep track of upcoming events.

Director Farrell credits the hard work and patience of Mr. Erskin Hansen of the Virgin Islands Bureau of Information Technology for the creation of the website. “We suggested what we would like for the website to look like and what we wanted it to accomplish and he just went to work on it. We are very grateful for his assistance. Because of his work, we can make our contribution to Governor Bryan’s quest to digitize the Virgin Islands Government”, said Director Farrell.

Veterans and their family members can access the website at https://veterans.vi.gov

VIWMA SCHEDULES GREASE REMOVAL FROM ST. JOHN POND MOUTH PUMP STATION AND NEIGHBORING MANHOLES

May 13, 2020

(St. John, USVI) The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (VIWMA or Authority) Preserving Paradise team advises the St. John community that on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, the wastewater staff and contractors will continue removing grease and debris build up at the Pond Mouth Pump Stations and nearby manholes. On April 22, staff and contractors removed more than 9,000 gallons of wastewater containing grease and debris from the same locations. The buildup of grease and debris at the same location is concerning, and warrants executing the same task to prevent the station from going offline and prevent wastewater overflow from nearby manholes.

Fats, oils and grease that have been improperly disposed of down household/business drains, in gut/ gutters, down manholes and/or storm drains are causing the buildup.

Although most restaurants have closed or scaled back business operations during COVID-19, grease dumped down drains can stay in public sewer lines, travel through the sewer network and accumulate in the pump station wet well where it ultimately affects the operation of pumps, causing overflows at the nearest downstream manhole.

 

VI Senator Gittens: Virgin Islanders need stimulus funds,Checks must be processed immediately

May 11, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Senator Kenneth L. Gittens called the Administration’s apparent plan to distribute Coronavirus stimulus checks on a staggered schedule a disservice to the people of the Virgin Islands.

The St. Croix Senator remains concerned about both the timeline for distributing these payments and the methodology employed.

“Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES Act), this money was appropriated by the United States Congress back in March to provide emergency financial assistance to citizens during this difficult period, and reports that it will take from at least two to four more months to complete distribution here in the Virgin Islands are simply outrageous,” Senator Gittens said. “We have thousands of Virgin Islanders suffering economically now as a result of the near total collapse of the tourism industry and forced business closures. Thousands of Virgin Islanders have applied for unemployment and many are still awaiting assistance. How can we possibly justify not immediately providing these checks to the people? Virgin Islanders need this money for food, housing and other basic needs. We need this money to be circulating in our local economy now!”

Senator Gittens also expressed concerns about a plan to process the checks on a schedule consistent with the date when an individual’s tax returns were filed.

“This is ridiculous as these are not tax refunds,” Senator Gittens said. “There is no correlation between when you filed your taxes and how soon you deserve your stimulus check. It is simply being processed by IRB as they have the necessary income information to know who qualifies for these checks. If IRB must set priorities, then they should provide the checks to those of lower income first or those working in impacted industries. However, no one should have to wait four months and, no one should have to receive a paper check, when direct deposits could be used to protect our seniors, who should not have to leave their homes to process a stimulus check in this COVID-19 environment. This is definitely a true disservice to the people of the Virgin Islands.”

Senator Gittens said he would be following up with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and other officials prior to Wednesday’s planned Committee of the Whole hearing to discuss how stimulus fund distribution can be altered to better serve the community.

“We need a concrete plan for getting all of this stimulus money out over the next couple of weeks as the current timeline for processing these checks is simply unacceptable,” he concluded

DLCA: Hurricane Price List Due June 1st in US Virgin Islands

May 8, 2020

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) Commissioner Richard T. Evangelista, Esq. reminds merchants that the first installment of this year’s Hurricane Price List is due to DLCA on Monday, June 1, 2020.

Every year, at the onset of hurricane season, DLCA requests businesses to furnish an official price list of their goods and merchandise in stock, and for the services they offer to the public. This information is required by law as a protective measure for all consumers in the event of an emergency and to prevent speculative practices related to those goods and services of primary need which are essential to face and recover from such emergencies. After the submission of the first price list, businesses must continue to submit an updated price list on the first of each month, until November 30, 2020. If a business has not changed its prices or acquired new products/services; they can submit a certified letter stating the previous price is still valid.

The request for a price list primarily targets businesses whose goods and services are necessary for hurricane preparation and recovery at all levels of Virgin Islands distribution and marketing. Businesses that must submit price lists include, but are not limited to, all retailers, wholesalers, producers, manufacturers, importers and providers of food items, water, beverages, general supplies, health and medical care products, fuel, rents, construction goods and services, clothing, furnishings, and others such goods and services as are deemed appropriate under the circumstances presented. It shall include commercial establishments and service providers such as supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, water and delivery businesses, laundromats, contractors, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, engineers, mechanics and masons.

Failure to submit a price list or certification letter by the first of each month, may subject a non-compliant business to administrative fines of up to $200 for each item sold or service provided in violation of the law in accordance with 11 VIR&R § 1015-1 and 3 V.I.C. § 272(b)(5). Due to COVID-19 and the practice of social distancing, DLCA offices are currently closed. Sample price list forms can be emailed to you and only electronic submissions are accepted at this time. You may request a sample price list form and/or email your business price list by emailing hurricanepricelist@dlca.vi.gov. Businesses are also reminded that the Price Freeze Order dated March 13, 2020 is still in effect on all items relative to the fight against COVID-19. As such, businesses shall not increase the cost of those items without approval from DLCA.

Naturi Naughton of “Power” fame Donates Food to VIPD Officers

May 4, 2020

ST. CROIX, USVI – The officers of the Virgin Islands Police Department, St. Croix District, were beneficiaries of 100 plates of food, donated by actress Naturi Naughton of “Power” fame.

The food donation, organized by the Office of the Delegate to Congress, was presented to the officers on May 3 at the VIPD Administration & Police Operations building in Mars Hill.

Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, who was present with staff members at the food donation, explained that Naughton, whose family is from Frederiksted, reached out to her and said she wanted to provide support to the people of the Virgin Islands. “We have been going throughout the island serving food, primarily to the elderly and to those with disabilities, during this time,” Plaskett said. The Delegate said her office decided to donate hot meals to employees of the Juan F. Luis Hospital the day before and decided to give meals to police officers to show appreciation for the job they are doing.

Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor thanked Naughton and Delegate to Congress Plaskett for the donation.

“This just shows that Virgin Islanders, whether domestic or abroad, we come together,” Velinor said.

The food was prepared by Ciboné, a restaurant in downtown Frederiksted. Much of the ingredients were sourced from local farmers and fishermen, according to Plaskett.

Governor Bryan Approves Administrative Leave To Commemorate This Year’s Cancelled Carnival

April 28, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — In observance of the hard work and dedication of the front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Tuesday issued an executive order approving administrative leave for non-essential government employees to commemorate Carnival on St. Thomas, which was canceled this year because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Under the Governor’s order, all government offices will be closed Friday.

“The Division of Festivals and WTJX have provided a wonderful series of events on TV and on Facebook showing you Carnivals from years before. I’m sure you might catch a picture of the Governor having a good time, back when my hair was black,” Governor Bryan said last week during the COVID-19 update on April 22.

“For those of us who have reveled since the time we were small, this is a very special time of year for us,” he said. “We miss our friends and families. I miss all of you and the great time we have.”

FAA Awards U.S. Virgin Islands $41 Million To Maintain Airports Under CARES Act Stimulus Bill

April 14, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Federal Aviation Administration has awarded the U.S. Virgin Islands $41,145,247 to maintain the Territory’s airport as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act federal stimulus bill.

Of the allotment, $21,527,641 is earmarked for Cyril King Airport on St. Thomas and $19, 617,606 is for Henry Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix.

The federal funds are available to:

*Keep airports in reliable, safe operation to serve the aviation industry, the travelling public, and support the economy *Keep airport and aviation workers employed *Keep airport credit ratings stable

The money can be used for any purpose airport revenues may lawfully be used under the guidelines of the FAA's policy and procedures concerning the use of airport revenue and adhere to any additional requirements for new contracts for airport development. The CARES Act, which was signed into law by the president on March 27, includes $10 billion in funds to be awarded as economic relief to eligible U.S. airports affected by the prevention of, preparation for, and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CARES Act provides funds to increase the federal share to 100 percent for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and supplemental discretionary grants already planned for fiscal year 2020. Under normal circumstances, AIP grant recipients contribute a matching percentage of the project costs. Providing this additional funding and eliminating the local share allows critical safety and capacity projects to continue as planned regardless of airport sponsors’ current financial circumstances.

Additionally, the CARES Act provides new funds distributed by various formulas for all airports that are part of the national airport system. This includes all commercial service airports, all reliever airports and some public-owned general aviation airports.

The FAA plans to make these funds available in April.

 

First Bank to Resume Banking Hours in Frederiksted

April 13, 2020

Frederiksted, St. Croix- First Bank will resume lobby hours at its Frederiksted branch, beginning on Tuesday, April 14, from 8 am to 1pm.

The only bank serving the St. Croix's west end had been shut for weeks as a precautionary measure since the "Stay at Home' order began in the territory.

Bank Officials told us that two customers at a time will be allowed entry into the bank and red lines of up to 3 feet distance apart have been drawn on the outside for those waiting in line.

Health Department Announces First Confirmed COVID-19 Death on St. Thomas

April 6, 2020

The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Health is deeply saddened to announce confirmation of the territory’s first confirmed COVID-19 death and two new confirmed cases of COVID-19 disease on St. Thomas. This brings the territory’s total confirmed cases to forty-two—twelve on Croix, twenty-eight on St. Thomas, and two on St. John.

The deceased is an 85-year-old male St. Thomas resident with underlying medical conditions. He unknowingly came into contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case that traveled to the island from Anguilla. He was not hospitalized at the time of his death and died at home.

“We are saddened by the news of the territory’s first confirmed COVID-19 death. On behalf of my staff at the Department of Health, I send my deepest condolences to the family of the deceased,” said Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion.

While this death was not a result of community transmission, persons may come in contact with someone who is infected unbeknownst to them. By avoiding contact with others, avoiding non-essential travel, and practicing good hand hygiene and other precautionary measures like social distancing, you can limit your risk of spreading and also acquiring this disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.” Social distancing, according to the CDC, is "remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.

Vivianne P. Newton Named Deputy Chief of Police for St. John

April 2, 2020

ST. THOMAS, USVI - On April 1, Police Commissioner Trevor A. Velinor announced the appointment of Detective Vivianne P. Newton as Deputy Chief of Police for the island of St. John.

Deputy Chief Newton is a 14-year veteran of the Virgin Islands Police Department, having spent the last 10 years of her career assigned to the Internal Affairs and Applicant Screening Bureau. Deputy Chief Newton has served as an instructor and has been an integral part of the Police Training Academy for 11 years and is a POST Certified General and High Liability Instructor. She is one of the Department’s leading authorities in Use of Force related matters. Deputy Chief Newton played a significant role as a member of the Department’s core consent decree team which led to the achievement of Substantial Compliance in December 2018. She has a proven track record of working collaboratively with key stakeholders to develop successful policies and trainings. She is dedicated to the mission of promoting awareness on department rules, procedures, policies, directives, training and Consent Decree matters.

Deputy Chief Newton is a member of the National Internal Affairs Investigators Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police and is FBI-LEEDA Certified in Basic Supervisory Liability, Advance Supervisory Liability, and Ethics to name a few. She holds both a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a master’s degree in Public Administration.

A native of St. Thomas, Deputy Chief Newton is the great-niece of Mariel C. Newton, the first policewoman in the U.S. Virgin Islands, who the police command in Anna’s Retreat is named after. Commissioner Velinor stated of his selection, “Deputy Chief Newton is a committed public servant. She believes in doing the right thing, whether or not anyone is watching. Deputy Chief Newton’s character, balanced with her ability to rapidly process information, makes her the right person for this position.

VIWMA REMINDS RESIDENTS TO PROPERLY DISPOSE OF THEIR HOUSEHOLD TRASH

April 1, 2020

(US Virgin Islands) The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority Preserving Paradise team reminds the community that proper waste disposal is a personal responsibility that can negatively impact public health specifically that of the Authority’s dedicated personnel and service providers. At this time, when the world is dealing with the effects of COVID-19 it is imperative that we pay attention to household waste disposal practices to reduce negative health and environmental impacts.

Residents are asked to properly dispose of household waste in garbage bags which are then tightly sealed and disposed of at one of the islands’ convenience centers or bin sites. Residents receiving house-to-house collection are asked to place sealed garbage bags into a 64-gallon trash receptacle and close it securely. The receptacles are left curbside on your assigned pickup day, you are reminded to remove it after collection.

As a reminder, for households utilizing house-to-house collection, please note you are allowed a maximum of two (2) 64-gallon trash receptacles placed curbside. In the case of apartment buildings up to three units, you are allowed a maximum of one (1) 64-gallon receptacle per unit. For buildings with four (4) or more units including commercial and industrial structures, owners are reminded, to utilize a private permitted and licensed waste hauler to collect and dispose of waste.

VIWMA reminds the public that it is a violation to dispose of commercial or business waste at a public bin sit and citations for this unlawful behavior begins at $1,000 per violation.

DLCA ENCOURAGES SOCIAL DISTANCE SHOPPING

March 28, 2020

On Wednesday, March 26, 2020, DLCA and Commissioner Trevor Velinor of the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) invited major grocery retailers across the Territory to meet via teleconference to discuss and share with each other all the measures implemented thus far to protect consumers and its staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grocery stores are deemed essential and exempt from the mass gathering by Governor Bryan’s March 13, 2020 State of Public Health Emergency Executive Order, however social distancing must still be practiced. With one of the biggest shopping days fast approaching, grocers had the opportunity to voice foreseen challenges that they may encounter on April 1, 2020.

A major concern raised by all the retailers is that many persons shop in groups making it difficult to enforce social distancing. DLCA and VIPD recommend that persons identify a representative for their respective households who can shop for the family. Before going to the store, ask members of your family what they want and generate a list of items to purchase. The list will organize your shopping and enable you to enter the store and pick up what you need without delay. 

Other best practices occurring throughout the Territory include:

Limiting the number of essential supplies purchased per customer and allowing only a certain number of customers to shop at a time; Establishing dedicated time slots for senior citizens, expectant mothers, persons with disabilities and persons with high-risk diseases to shop; Pressure washing shopping carts daily; Establishing a 6 feet separation between customers at each cash register and only using every cash register when necessary and opting to use every other cash register, and Providing gloves and hand sanitizer to the customers.

DLCA ANNOUNCES THE LATEST RACK RATES AND FUEL PRICE SURVEY

March 27, 2020

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) is notifying the public that the rack rate issued by Limetree Bay effective March 30-April 5, 2020 is lower for Regular and Premium by 25.35% and 30.77% respectively from the prior week’s rate. The new price for Regular and Premium with the .14/gallon tax is $0.85 and $0.92 respectively. The rack rate for diesel (ULSD) is 0.78% lower from the prior week’s rate. The new price for diesel with the .14/gallon tax is $1.42/gallon. Currently, the rack rate quoted is available in the St. Croix district only. As soon as the rack rate for St. Thomas/St. John is available, DLCA is expected to disseminate the information.

Gas Station fuel price surveys were conducted Thursday, March 26, 2020 on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John.

On St. Croix, the lowest prices found on self-service regular was Freedom City Service Station and Midpoint Service Station at $2.329 per gallon. Five Corners Service Station has the lowest premium gasoline at $2.909 per gallon. The lowest price for diesel fuel was Super Tank Service station at $2.750 per gallon.

On St. Thomas, the lowest prices found on full-service regular and self-service regular was Petrus Smith Bay at $3.369 per gallon. Ali Baba and Race Track has the lowest full-service and self-service premium gasoline at $3.689 per gallon. The lowest price for diesel fuel were 1st Stop Frydenhoj and 1st Stop at $3.59 per gallon.

Race Track on St. John had the lowest self-service prices at $3.79 premium and $3.63 regular per gallon. The lowest price for diesel was Race Track at $4.27 per gallon.

 

The Coast Guard medically evacuated the Captain of the 734-foot Singapore-flagged container ship M/V Maersk Batam Monday night, approximately 100 nautical miles south of Puerto Rico Monday night.

March 25,2020.

The Coast Guard medically evacuated the Captain of the 734-foot Singapore-flagged container ship M/V Maersk Batam Monday night, approximately 100 nautical miles south of Puerto Rico Monday night.

The Captain of the M/V Maersk Batam, 57, is a citizen of the United Kingdom, who experienced life threatening symptoms of a possible stroke during the ship’s transit from St. Marta, Colombia to their next scheduled port call in Southhampton, England.

"We commend the Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands for their swift response in coming to the aide of the this mariner and providing the higher level of care he required," said Capt. Eric P. King, Sector San Juan commander. "The tireless and selfless efforts of our Coast Guardsmen every day, as in cases like this, speak volumes to our service’s motto of Semper Paratus. They proudly stand the watch in support our nation and the maritime community to facilitate safe maritime commerce during these difficult times."

Coast Guard Sector San Juan watchstanders received the medevac request at 9:55 a.m. Monday from the M/V Maersk Batam, as the ship was transiting 175 nautical miles southwest of Mona Island, Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watchstanders launched a Coast Guard MH-65D helicopter crew from Air Station Borinquen to conduct the medevac, and diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Thetis (WMEC-910) to shorten the distance with the M/V Maersk Batam and serve as an emergency platform for the rescue helicopter if required. Watchstanders coordinated with Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Virgin Islands authorities throughout the medevac. They also inquired and received from the M/V Maersk Batam that the patient’s condition was unrelated and that he was not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

Once on scene, the helicopter deployed the aircraft rescue swimmer to M/V Maersk Batam to assess the patient’s condition. The aircrew used a rescue litter to hoist the ship’s captain aboard the aircraft. Following the hoist, the patient was transported the Cyril E. King airport in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, where he was received by awaiting emergency medical services personnel and taken to the island’s Roy Lester Schneider Regional Hospital.

 

Government Agencies Change Operations In Response to COVID-19 Outbreak

March 24, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—In an effort to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID19, and in adherence to guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), several departments and agencies of the Government of the Virgin Islands have implemented steps to minimize person-to-person contact at their offices.

As of Monday, March 23, 2020, departments and agencies modifying the operations include:

VI Department of Justice

Department of Justice facilities on St. Thomas and St. Croix are closed to the public and will not conduct person-to-person services until further notice. Department of Justice’s four facilities that will be closed to the public include the Office of the Attorney General. Services to be provided electronically or telephonically include administrative claims and questions regarding pending criminal cases. The Sex Offender Registry, a division of the V.I. Department of Justice, will also be closed to the public; however, registration requirements remain in place. Sex offenders who are residing, employed, or attending school in the Territory and need to register or update their information must do so telephonically or via email. https://usvidoj.codemeta.com/.

Virgin Islands Fire Service

The Virgin Islands Fire Service’s Prevention and Administrative Offices in both districts will have limited hours of operation and will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays only. The reduced hours will remain in effect until further notice. Businesses that have fire certificates that have expired or will expire during the current state of emergency will be given a 60-day extension. The Fire Service’s emergency response operations will remain uninterrupted.

Office of Collective Bargaining

The Office of Collective Bargaining will be closed, beginning Tuesday, March 24, until April 6. Calls may be made from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to 340-774-6450 or 340-713-0735.

VI Waste Management Authority

All bid packages should be submitted electronically to the Authority, and all open solicitations in response to the Waste Management Authority’s recent projects opened for bid will be accepted via email only. The solicitations shall adhere to the previously established date and time as indicated on the respective advertisement. Please forward the completed document to sdavid@viwma.org and/or jthomas-blyden@viwma.org, or visit www.viwma.org.

VI Department of Labor

The VI Department of Labor will be open to the public; however, the following limits will be set for occupancy of common areas:

*There is a maximum capacity limit set to minimize the number of clients in the lobby at a time. *There is a maximum capacity of the resource rooms vary by district at this time. For more information on capacity, detail call the Department before visiting in person.

There will also be limits set to available services, outside of Unemployment Insurance. If possible, clients are encouraged to use the website to obtain information and find resources. Please call ahead before visiting the Labor offices to find out the volume of clients to help maintaining social distancing. Requests for various services will require consideration after the State of Emergency social distancing recommendations expire on April 6, 2020. www.vidol.gov.

VI Energy Office All individuals with applications for the Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Financial Incentive Program are required to submit them by email, fax or mail service until further notice. The VIEO has waived the 30-day application deadline so that customers who purchase qualifying items can capitalize on these rebates, which includes items purchased as of March 1, 2020. For more information visit: www.facebook.com/VirginIslandsEnergyOffice.

Department of Public Works

In-person interactions are limited in offices territory-wide, and in-person complaint submissions are suspended until further notice. Complaints will continue to be accepted by telephone, email and online. Cemetery office guests will be limited to two guests per visit. For more information visit www.Dpw.vi.gov.

Department of Licensing & Consumer Affairs

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) is asking the public to utilize department’s online website at www.dlca.vi.gov for business license renewals or new business license applications, to schedule appointments and to file consumer complaints online.

Department of Finance

The Department of Finance is conducting all business electronically whenever possible. For more information visit www.dof.vi.gov.

Department of Tourism

The Department of Tourism is providing updates to visitors to the US Virgin Islands at www.usviupdate.com.

VI Lottery

The VI Lottery our offices in both Districts will allow five customers into the lobby at a time. Dealers are asked to provide requested ticket numbers in advance to avoid line delays and ensure expedient service. Dealers will be provided with their listings to make those selections once requested in advance. On-site St. John sales are be postponed until further notice. For more information, call 340-774-2502 on St. Thomas or 340-778-6360 on St. Croix or visit www.winvilottery.com.

Department of Human Services

The VI Department of Human Services Head Start Program has closed classrooms territory-wide. VIDHS staff are to report to work as normally scheduled.

Department of Education

All public schools are closed through April 14. The Department of Education has announced the cancellation of several activities including distribution of progress reports and postponement of the Smart Balanced tests until fall 2020. For more information visit www.vide.vi.

WAPA

Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority customer service offices territory-wide will offer only limited service to walk-in visitors. All business transactions should be conducted either online or via telephone until further notice. Customer Service offices can be reached by calling 340-774-3552 or 340-773-2250 and selecting option 5. For more information visit www.viwapa.vi.

Bureau of Corrections

In-person visitations at all correctional facilities are suspended, and all volunteer programs, work details, and furloughs also are suspended until further notice. For more information visit www.boc.vi.gov.

Judicial Branch of the US Virgin Islands

All in-person proceedings scheduled to commence on or before April 1, 2020, before any judicial officer in any Judicial Branch facility are postponed, and no new proceedings will be scheduled. The only exception to the suspension of in-person proceedings are Advice of Rights and Stalking and Domestic Violence matters, which will continue to be heard in-person subject to limitations set by the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court. Advice of Rights will only take place at 9 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. For more information, contact: Tel: 340-774‐2237, Fax: 340-774‐2258 or TTY: 340-693-4118.

33rd Legislature

All hearings and meetings in both districts have been postponed, and the Legislature is restricting visitation to its facilities, which are closed to members of the public.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VI Governor Albert Bryan announces the closure of schools in the territory beginning on Wednesday.VI Carnival has been canceled. Bryan also orders no gatherings of more than 50 people and urges businesses to not allow more than 15 people at the same time in any establishment.

Governor Albert Bryan declares a state of emergency in the US Virgin Islands over the Coronavirus. Governor Bryan urges residents not to take part in mass gatherings. The St. Patrick's Day Parade has been canceled, schools will remain open for now.

VIWMA REMINDS BUSINESSES TO PROPERLY DISPOSE WASTE OIL OR FACE PENALITIES

March 9, 2020

(US Virgin Islands) March 9, 2020 - The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (“VIWMA” or “Authority”) continues to remind residents who own food preparation businesses that they must follow the law as it applies to the proper disposal of used cooking oil. Additionally, car service establishments offering oil changes must also properly dispose of their waste oil. VI Code Title 19 Chapter 56 § 1555 (e) and (b) states all businesses producing waste oil must employ an authorized permitted hauler to dispose of the used product. Violators are subject to a fine of not less than $1,000 and/or 180 days imprisonment.

It is against the law to dispose used commercial oil at public bin sites. The Authority is aware there are several businesses who violate the law by illegally disposing used oil at public bin sites under the cover of darkness. The VIWMA continues to monitor this situation and will issue citations for illegal disposal and storage of used oil. We are urging the offending businesses to think about the negative effect your illegal actions are having on the local environment. This is our home, let’s all keep it clean!

To obtain a listing of permitted haulers, or to report illegal dumping call the VIWMA hotline at 844-WMA-USVI (844-962-8784)

Governor Bryan Issues Proclamations

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has issued three proclamations to commemorate V.I. History Month, Social Work Month and Consumer Protection Week.

“The people, natives, inhabitants, citizens and residents of the United States Virgin Islands of various origins, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, colors, beliefs and religions have throughout history, as individuals and as groups, greatly contributed to the progress and enrichment of humanity locally, regionally, nationally, internationally and globally,” Governor Bryan said in his proclamation about V.I. History Month. “It is most fitting, proper and appropriate that knowledge of these achievements and contributions to humankind be known to both the U.S. Virgin Islanders and all others in the global community.”

The Governor also recognized March as Social Work Month, with this year’s theme being “Social Workers: Generations Strong.”

“Social workers for generations have worked with other professions, community groups, lawmakers, and civil rights and other organizations to bring equal rights for all, including women and people who are African American, Latino, Native American, LGBTQ, and of various cultural, ethnic and religious groups,” the Governor said in the proclamation. “The Social Work Profession has been in the forefront of pushing for changes that have made our society a better place to live, including earning a minimum wage, improved workplace safety, and social safety net programs that help ameliorate poverty and hunger.”

Governor Bryan also declared March 1-7 to be Consumer Protection Week – which is commemorated nationally – and cited two distinct divisions within the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) tasked with upholding the Consumer Code: The Weights and Measures Unit and the Consumer Protection Services.

“The Weights and Measures Unit continues to perform its duties by inspecting all weighing and measuring devices within the United States Virgin Islands for the protection of all citizens, whether buyer or seller,” Governor Bryan said in the proclamation, also noting that the U.S. Congress enacted the first Weights and Measures law in 1799. “The United States Virgin Islands has established the Consumer Protection Services Unit within the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs to enforce the Consumer Code pertaining to deceptive, unfair and unconscionable trade practices for the protection of the consumer.”

JFL Dispels WhatsApp Coronavirus Rumors

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – On or around March 1, 2020, three different WhatsApp messages began to circulate stating that there was a patient at the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center with coronavirus.

Hospital officials said in a statement on Monday that these messages are false.

"There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the island of St. Croix, or at the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center. In conjunction with the Department of Health, JFL reminds the public to follow CDC recommendations to prevent any infection of a respiratory virus, which includes: Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. • Stay home when sick. • Cough or sneeze into an elbow or use a tissue and place immediately in the trash. • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces."

VIWMA ADVISES THE COMMUNITY OF AN ACTIVE FIRE AT THE ANGUILLA LANDFILL

March 3, 2020

(St. Croix, USVI) - The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (‘VIWMA” or “Authority”) Preserving Paradise team advises the community of an active fire at the Anguilla Landfill reported at 2:30 pm Tuesday, March 3, 2020. The fire is located at the northeast corner of the landfill and has been contained as of 3 pm Tuesday.

Virgin Islands Fire Service, VIWMA contractors and personnel are working expeditiously to suppress the fire. VIWMA advises the public and all haulers that landfill operations have been temporarily suspended for the remainder of Tuesday. Haulers also are asked to hold waste until normal operating hours resume.

Residents with respiratory disorders/conditions should always take precautions to minimize their exposure to smoke as wind directions change. The Authority will continue to provide updates regarding changes that may affect public health, the environment and haulers utilizing the Landfill.

Coast Guard, federal agencies conduct multi-agency operation at U.S. Virgin Islands ferry terminals in Saint Thomas, St. Croix

February 28, 2020

SAINT THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – Coast Guard and federal law enforcement authorities completed a three-day multi-agency operation Saturday in the U.S. Virgin Islands in support of Operation Full Court Press.

This joint operation focused on illegal immigration and narcotics trafficking, and included participation from Coast Guard Boat Forces in Saint Thomas and Saint Croix, Coast Guard Sector San Juan Boarding Team, Customs and Border Protection's Air & Marine Operations (AMO) and Field Operations, FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations and the Transportation Security Administration.

During the course of the operation, over 15 cargo ferry and passengers ferry were screened with more than 1000 passengers going through check points established at the Saint John and Saint Thomas ferry terminals with the assistance of the Transportation Security Administration.

Monitoring efforts at the check point revealed two cases of passengers carrying a firearm, and over 30 cases of passengers carrying knives or other sharp objects. These cases were addressed immediately and actions were taken to collect the weapons and sharp objects from the passengers before boarding the ferry. In one instance, a Customs and Border Protection K-9 unit successfully identified a person who was in possession of marijuana for personal use. The subject was referred to local law enforcement authorities for processing. Additionally, two illegal aliens, a Dominican Republic national and Ecuadorian national, were also detained. The men were interviewed and processed for removal by immigration authorities.

“This operation was a success thanks to the professionalism, commitment and seamless communication and collaboration between all the agency personnel involved,” said Chief Petty Officer Luis Cabrera, Boat Forces Saint Thomas supervisor. “For any situation that we encountered we had a federal agency subject matter expert available on scene to deal with the situation immediately. These efforts help protect our maritime transportation system and waterway for the safety of our citizens and visitors in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

US Senate Confirmed Judge Robert Molloy to the District Court of the Virgin Islands

February 25, 2020.

Today, the US Senate unanimously confirmed Judge Robert Molloy to the District Court of the Virgin Islands. 

Molloy a native Crucian has served on the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands since 2013, where he has heard criminal, civil, and administrative cases. He has also sat by designation with the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands 10 times and has also sat with the Appellate Division of the District Court of the Virgin Islands.

 The District Court of the Virgin Islands has two judgeships authorized. Judge Jose Gomez, who was appointed by President Bush, saw his appointment expire in 2015. The Obama Administration declined to reappoint Gomez but also refused to make another appointment, presumably due to unwillingness to expend energy on a pick likely to be blocked by the Republican Senate.

In June 2018, Molloy was contacted by Anthony Ciolli, the President of the Virgin Islands Bar Association, to gauge his interest in the judgeship.[ After Molloy confirmed his interest, his nomination was sent to the White House by Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat.

Molloy was nominated on May 29, 2019.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr., on Tuesday, congratulated Judge Molloy.

Congratulations to Judge Robert Molloy on his confirmation to the U.S. District Court for the District of the Virgin Islands. I have known Judge Molloy for more than 20 years and could not be any more proud that the U.S. Senate voted to confirm him to serve in the federal judiciary. He is an incredibly talented legal expert who’s acumen and commitment to the rule of law will serve our territory and our country for years to come,” the Governor stated.

Virgin Islands District Court Judge, Robert Molloy

Governor Bryan Takes Action on 18 Bills

February 25, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. took action on 18 bills and one resolution and sent them down to the 33rd Legislature last week.

The Governor approved 13 bills and vetoed five of the measures.

Among the bills Governor Bryan approved is Bill No. 33-0034, which establishes pay to members of the Virgin Islands National Guard that is comparable to those serving in the U.S. armed forces.

“I support any measure which ensures the safety of our Territorial active duty members by providing insurance to cover illness and injury, and that keeps our Territorial officers paid fairly and equally,” the Governor said in his transmittal letter to Senate President Novelle Francis Jr.

Governor Bryan also approved Bill No. 33-0037, which directs the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to rehabilitate ponds in the Territory as part of efforts to establish a stormwater management plan to benefit Virgin Islands agriculture. However, Governor Bryan also expressed reservation about the bill and said it does not provide a funding source and created an unfunded mandate.

Bill No. 33-0065, which benefits farmers by establishing a well-drilling unit within the Department of Agriculture, also was approved by Governor Bryan.

The Governor also signed Bill No. 33-0263 and Bill No. 33-0264, which was previously vetoed because of drafting errors. Bill No. 33-0263 (formerly 33-0095) establishes the “Virgin Islands Medicaid Program Integrity Act,” and Bill No. 33-0264 (formerly 33-0236) appropriates $500,000 from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to the Caribbean Drag Racing Association for infrastructure improvements at the St. Croix Motor Sports Complex.

Among the legislation Governor Bryan vetoed is Bill No. 33-0069, relating to the issuance and usage of government credit cards by placing the responsibility and control of the cards within the Department of Finance because he said it was “not well thought out.”

Governor Bryan also vetoed Bill No. 33-0145, which would require the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to conduct a mid-year review of the budget and report the findings to the Legislature because the law already requires this process and the Government of the Virgin Islands conducts semi-annual Revenue Estimating Conferences, to which the Legislature is a party and receives all of the reports generated.

“To now add an additional obligation on the Director of the OMB one month after the conferences are duplicative, unduly burdensome and unnecessary,” the Governor wrote.

Bill No. 33-0189, which proposes to establish the Virgin Islands Virtual Information System (VIVIS), also was vetoed by the Governor.

“First, VIVIS is a program that already exists and is currently live. Therefore, the Legislature’s attempt to implement an already established system is clearly duplicative,” Governor Bryan wrote. “Second, like other bills that have been put forward by the Legislature, this measure is also another unfunded mandate.”

 

The Virgin Islands National Guard Held Its Annual "All Harzards" Workshop

February 25, 2020

ST. CROIX, Virgin Islands – The Virgin Islands National Guard hosted its annual All-Hazards workshop at the Estate Bethlehem compound, St. Croix, Feb. 18-20.

The workshop comprised of members from the VING, other military branches, local government and organizations essential to providing local support to the Territory. The goal is to develop mission analysts and a product to integrate into an action plan and refine the hurricane response and recovery plan.

"Hurricanes aren't the only threats to the Virgin Islands," said Col. Ivan Udell, the director of operations for the VING. "The most dangerous event that can happen to the Virgin Islands is a tsunami.

" Developing an earthquake and tsunami response plan, conducting intelligence preparation, and identifying capabilities and vulnerabilities that enable an action plan were addressed amongst representatives from each agency. The scale disaster preparedness is imperative for emergency response.

"Civilians are the lead in response, but anytime they are overwhelmed by the circumstances, that's where we will step in," said Udell.

FEMA Approves Industry Standards for Education and Other Critical Agencies

February 24, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands – The Office of Disaster Recovery and the Virgin Islands Department of Education, today, announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had approved industry standards that will ensure newly constructed schools and office buildings can withstand future catastrophic weather events and meet professional norms for providing service.

“This approval will green light pending projects and signals continued progress and our partnership with local and federal stakeholders,” said Director Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Office of Disaster Recovery, at the press briefing at Government House on St. Croix.

The agreed upon guidelines will govern all aspects of construction, from the size of classrooms to the type of lighting used throughout school campuses. The production of industry standards is a first in the V.I. Department of Education’s history.

Industry standards are produced by recognized formal organizations, government agencies, trade groups, industry associations, professional societies, and standards producers. FEMA and territorial representatives work closely to determine acceptable standards for each industry. Industry standards for health, roads, communication, and fire services were approved in 2019.

FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer William L. Vogel said, “We are very excited to work with the Territory as they continue the recovery process. I want to commend them for the great work they have done to create education industry standards. We will continue to work with the Territory to ensure we build back stronger, safer, and more resilient.

These guidelines will allow for the construction and purchase of equipment at current industry standards as opposed to refurbishing old equipment or rebuilding it to its condition before the storms. Administrators can purchase necessary equipment in accordance with existing guidelines guaranteeing that new facilities will be modernized and up to code. Contractors can build to the most recent regulations ensuring a more resilient structure designed to reflect the expectations set forth for each industry.

Dr. Dionne Wells-Hedrington, Ed.D., Department of Education chief operations officer who spearheads the Department’s effort to construct new schools in the Territory, said, “Today is a very good day for the Department of Education. We now have established standards that say what our facilities should have, how they should be built, and standards that identify what kind of learning environment our students should have. This is going to be a reality; we are going to rebuild schools.

These approvals granted under Section 428 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and the Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) and Section 20601 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA) authorizes FEMA to aid in the restoration of disaster-damaged components of a facility or system to industry standards without regard to its pre-disaster condition.

With the newly approved industry standards, the New School Construction Advisory Board will continue to move forward with developing the design of new educational facilities in conjunction with the DLR Group; the architectural consultants procured to assist with the reconstruction of public school facilities in the Territory.

The Government of the Virgin Islands continues to work closely with FEMA representatives, both locally and federally, and appreciates the ratification of the latest industry standards for education.

St.Croix' Landfill Reopens Following Fire

February 21, 2020

.(St. Croix, USVI) - The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (VIWMA) Preserving Paradise team advises the community and solid waste haulers of the resumption of operations at the Anguilla Landfill on St. Croix.

The landfill was closed on Thursday, February 20, 2020 at 2:15 pm.; closure was attributed to a brush fire that occurred on the west-side slope of the landfill facing the airport. It was not caused by solid waste; the brush fire was extinguished by Virgin Islands Fire Service and VIWMA contractors within three (3) hours.

The landfill reopened at 5:15 pm the same day.

VIWMA ADVISES THE COMMUNITY OF ACTIVE FIRE AT THE ANGUILLA LANDFILL

February 20,2020

(St. Croix, USVI) - The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (‘VIWMA” or “Authority”) Preserving Paradise team advises the community of an active fire at the Anguilla Landfill reported Thursday, February 20, 2020.

Firefighters and VIWMA personnel are working expeditiously to bring the fire under control. VIWMA advises the public and all haulers that landfill operations have been temporarily suspended. Haulers are asked to hold waste until normal operating hours resume.

Residents with respiratory disorders/conditions should take precautions to minimize their exposure to smoke as wind directions change. The Authority will continue to provide updates regarding changes that may affect public health, the environment and haulers utilizing the Landfill.

 

DLCA INFORMS OF TERRITORY-WIDE MARKET BASKET SURVEY

February 18, 2020

Commissioner Richard T. Evangelista, Esq., is notifying the public of its territory-wide Market Basket survey findings, which were completed February 14, 2020. The Market Basket survey is designed to inform consumers of which stores have the best prices no matter the brand on staple grocery items. The number of items compared on each island varies as a result of comparison guidelines that require items are identical in order to produce a valid survey. Market basket surveys are included for comparative viewing.

St. Croix: five stores were surveyed: Pueblo Golden Rock, Pueblo La Reine, Plaza Extra East, Plaza Extra West, and Stop and Shop Supermarket. A total of 23 of the same items were compared at each location. The difference between the highest and lowest-priced basket for February was $9.62. The lowest-priced family market basket was found at Plaza Extra East location at $57.35. Plaza Extra West came in second with a market basket cost of $59.27; $1.92 cents more than Plaza Extra East. Stop and Shop Supermarket came in third with a basket cost of $63.47. Pueblo La Reine came in fourth with $66.26. Pueblo Golden Rock was fifth with a market basket of 66.97.

St. Thomas: four stores were surveyed: Plaza Extra, Food Center, and Pueblo Long Bay and Pueblo Sub Base. A total of 32 of the same items were compared at each location. The difference between the highest and lowest-priced basket was $31.80. The lowest priced family market basket was found at Plaza Extra with a cost of $84.40. Pueblo Long Bay location came in second with a market basket cost of $99.46. Pueblo Sub Base came in third with a basket cost of $100.27. Food Center came in fourth with a cost of $116.20.

St. John: four stores were surveyed: Dolphin Market Cruz Bay, Dolphin Market Coral Bay, Dolphin Market Chocolate Hole and Starfish Market. A total of 32 of the same items were compared at each location. The difference between the highest and lowest priced market basket was $3.56. The lowest priced family market basket was found at Dolphin Market Coral Bay with a cost of $152.19. Dolphin Market Chocolate Hole came in second with a market basket cost of $152.78. Dolphin Market Cruz Bay came in third with a basket cost of $154.50. Starfish Market came in fourth with a cost of $155.75.

Consumers are reminded to shop wisely and compare food prices to make the best economic choices. Consumers or Merchants with questions may contact Consumer Affairs Division on St. Croix at 713-3522, St. Thomas at 714-3522, or on St. John at 693-8036.

USVI Department of Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey Gomez Speaks on Federal Reserve Bank of New York Panel on Youth Poverty

February 14, 2020

(U.S. Virgin Islands) On Thursday, February 13, Department of Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez participated in an event and panel discussion hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York titled: Youth Poverty in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands: Updates and Policy Recommendations. The purpose of the event was to bring a variety of thought leaders together from the non-profit, community development and health sectors to discuss the national impacts of child poverty on health, the economic costs and options to reduce child poverty.

“It was an honor to be invited by The Federal Reserve Bank of New York to participate in this important discussion with esteemed colleagues,” said Commissioner Causey-Gomez. “It is critically important to not only address and discuss the issue of youth poverty, but to also dissect policies that impact this issue and re-imagine new pathways forward. To fail to do this is to fail our respective territories and the United States of America.”

The event was open to the public and held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in New York City. Other leaders came from across the non-profit, community development and health sectors. They included: Claas Ehlers, Chief Executive Officer, Family Promise; María Enchautegui, Research Director, Instituto del Desarrollo de la Juventud and Dr. Irwin Redlener, Clinical Professor, Health Policy and Management and Pediatrics, Columbia University. Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, Chancellor of the City University of New York, moderated the discussion.

DLCA IMPLEMENTS SELF REPORTING FOR WHOLESALERS, SUPERMARKETS AND RETAIL ESTABLISHMENTS IN ORDER TO INCREASE COMPLIANCE PRODUCTIVITY

February 14, 2020

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) Commissioner Richard T. Evangelista, Esq. reminds businesses of its obligation to submit a monthly price list.

Effective Friday, February 28, 2020, DLCA shall institute a process for gathering information published in the monthly Market Basket Survey. Changes to the current operational procedures regarding both surveys are being made to extract data and produce adequate public information in a more efficient and less time-consuming manner as follows:

1. Wholesalers, Supermarkets and Retail Establishments shall be required to submit prices on specified basic food commodities offered for sale via electronic means on a bi-weekly basis.

2. Transmission via hardcopy, email, fax, or other electronic medium shall be acceptable means of providing the required information. Said information, whether transmitted electronically or otherwise, must be addressed to K’wanda Daniels, Special Assistant to the Office of the Commissioner, via email kwanda.daniels@dlca.vi.gov, or via facsimile to (340) 718-8250.

3. The Consumer Protection Service and Weights and Measures Unit shall monitor the establishments at least once weekly to ensure that the information submitted is accurate.

Basic food commodities include by statute all milk, bread, rice, flour, potatoes, cereal, juice, including canned, bottle and frozen juice and juice packs, bottled water, dried beans, fruits, vegetables, meats and poultry offered for sale.

Pertinent information from all the reports required to be submitted above will be published regularly by the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs. Whoever fails to produce invoices or documents required by DLCA shall be fined not more than $200 per violation. 11 VIC § 1071.

Consumers or Merchants with questions may contact Office of the Commissioner on St. Croix at (340) 713-3522; St. Thomas at (340) 714-3522; or on St. John at (340) 693-8036. For consumer related issues you may email us at consumerawareness@dlca.vi.gov.

Governor Bryan to Testify Before U.S. House Committee

February 10, 2020

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. will be among several governors of U.S. territories scheduled to testify before the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Natural Resources Tuesday, February 11, 2020, at noon AST during a hearing on the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request for Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs.

Governor Bryan will provide an update on the state of the territory and discuss economic growth incentives, Medicaid reimbursement to the Territory’s hospitals, and the proposed remittance of a gasoline excise tax to the territory.

The Governor is also scheduled to participate in a senior plenary session of the Interagency Group on Insular Areas, where he, along with governors from the other U.S. territories, will outline their federal priorities with senior White House officials and the leadership of the U.S. Department of Interior.

Governor Bryan to Attend National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C.

February 6, 2020

US VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr, will travel to Washington D.C., Friday to attend the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association and to meet with senior White House administration officials.

Governor Bryan will join governors from across the nation, and hundreds of policy experts for discussions on initiatives to promote economic prosperity, the development and maintenance of critical infrastructure, and measures to plan for and respond to natural disasters.

While in Washington, Governor Bryan will also participate in a senior plenary session of the Interagency Group on Insular Areas, where he, along with Governors from the other U.S. territories, will outline their federal priorities with senior White House officials and the leadership of the U.S. Department of Interior.

The governor is also scheduled to meet with Department of Treasury officials for further talks on his administration’s proposed revenue streams to avert the insolvency of the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS).

Last December, Governor Bryan called the Thirty-third Legislature into special session to vote on legislation expanding the Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act to allow for the generation of more substantial tax and fee revenues to be used to help stabilize the GERS

. Governor Bryan said in his State of the Territory Address last month said that the goal of his legislation to expand the Virgin Islands Cannabis Patient Care Act was to create a funding stream reliable enough to support a revenue bond that can provide a needed cash infusion to the GERS along with pursuing other revenue sources from new rum and gasoline excise taxes and an adjustment to the Caribbean Basin Initiative.

The Winter Meeting is one of the two annual gatherings of the National Governors Association, which provides a forum for governors and other state leaders to discuss policy and best practices and to engage federal officeholders to reinforce relationships and focus state advocacy efforts.

Governor Bryan Announces Start of Restoration Of Government House and The Battery

Work Set to Begin on Both Buildings on February 14

February 6, 2020.

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has announced that contracts have been finalized to begin the restoration of Government House on St. Thomas and The Battery on St. John.

Work is scheduled to begin February 14 and will entail refurbishing the floors, painting and restoring walls and ceilings; fixing plumbing and landscaping.

Both buildings were destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria and require extensive cleaning and restoration.

J. Benton Construction LLC, a locally owned company founded in 2006, was awarded the contract for Government House with a bid of $3,678,075. The estimated construction time is 365 calendar days.

Among the projects J. Benton has done are the Government Employees Retirement System building on St. Croix; various construction jobs at King and Rohlsen airports; the Virgin Islands Police Department’s K-9 Operations Center; and the Captain Morgan Visitor’s Center and Diageo Administration Building.

The contract for the restoration of The Battery was awarded to Custom Builders, which submitted a bid of $1,131,538. The estimated construction time is 210 calendar days.

Custom Builders has been operating in the Virgin Islands since 1986 and was the contractor that got King Airport on St. Thomas reopened nine days after Hurricane Maria. Other projects Custom Builders have done are the Enighed Pond commercial port; building the Westin swimming pool; and renovations to Caneel Bay.

Funding for the restoration of Government House is provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and funding for restoration of The Battery comes through insurance money.

Electrical Issue at VIPD Mars Hill Location Resolved, Consumer Services to Resume Regular Hours Frida

February 6, 2020

ST. CROIX, USVI – The electrical issues that caused VIPD officials to evacuate the Police Operations & Administrative Services offices in Mars Hill, Frederiksted were resolved Thursday.

As a result, VIPD consumer services (Records Bureau, Firearms Bureau, Permits, Police Pavilion rental, etc.) will open on Friday at 8 a.m. All Department employees are expected to report to work as usual.

Governor Bryan to Attend National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C.

February 6, 2020

US VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr, will travel to Washington D.C., Friday to attend the annual winter meeting of the National Governors Association and to meet with senior White House administration officials.

Governor Bryan will join governors from across the nation, and hundreds of policy experts for discussions on initiatives to promote economic prosperity, the development and maintenance of critical infrastructure, and measures to plan for and respond to natural disasters.

While in Washington, Governor Bryan will also participate in a senior plenary session of the Interagency Group on Insular Areas, where he, along with Governors from the other U.S. territories, will outline their federal priorities with senior White House officials and the leadership of the U.S. Department of Interior.

The governor is also scheduled to meet with Department of Treasury officials for further talks on his administration’s proposed revenue streams to avert the insolvency of the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS).

Last December, Governor Bryan called the Thirty-third Legislature into special session to vote on legislation expanding the Virgin Islands Medical Cannabis Patient Care Act to allow for the generation of more substantial tax and fee revenues to be used to help stabilize the GERS.

Governor Bryan said in his State of the Territory Address last month said that the goal of his legislation to expand the Virgin Islands Cannabis Patient Care Act was to create a funding stream reliable enough to support a revenue bond that can provide a needed cash infusion to the GERS along with pursuing other revenue sources from new rum and gasoline excise taxes and an adjustment to the Caribbean Basin Initiative.

The Winter Meeting is one of the two annual gatherings of the National Governors Association, which provides a forum for governors and other state leaders to discuss policy and best practices and to engage federal officeholders to reinforce relationships and focus state advocacy efforts.

Electrical Issue Causes VIPD Mars Hill Location Shutdown

February 6, 2020

ST. CROIX, USVI – Yesterday, at about 3:40 p.m., the VIPD Police Operations and Administrative Services building in Mars Hill, Frederiksted experienced electrical issues. The electrical issues created a potentially hazardous condition for employees in the building, and the decision was made to evacuate all the employees. The Virgin Islands Fire Service was called to assist, and Fire personnel swept the building and gave the all clear to re-enter. However, the electrical issues affected climate control (air quality), and the communications systems. A decision was made to send all non-essential personnel home. Sworn personnel were temporarily relocated; however, they were able to return to the zone for duty until further notice.

VIPD consumer services (Records Bureau, Firearms Bureau, Permits, Police Pavilion rental, etc.) are closed today. VIPD Personnel who work in the Mars Hill location are asked to check with your supervisor before reporting to work but be prepared to report on Friday.

A contracted electrician is presently on the premises to assess the situation and hopefully start repairs

VIWMA WARNS BUSINESSES AGAINST ILLEGAL DUMPING OF COOKING OIL AND MOTOR OIL

February 4, 2020

(Virgin Islands) The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (“VIWMA” or “Authority”) held a press conference on Tuesday, February 4, 2020, to announce the removal of more than 6,000 gallons of used cooking oil and motor oil illegally disposed of at the Concordia residential bin site. Authority officials admonished those businesses who participate in illegal dumping and reminded businesses of the Virgin Islands Code and Regulations requiring a permitted and licensed contract hauler to dispose of waste oil. Violators are subject to a fine of not less than $1,000 and/or 180 days imprisonment.

Illegal dumping of used cooking oil and motor oil in the Territory is also occurring in the St. Thomas/St. John district as well as on Water Island. This practice is causing environmental damage including clogged and blocked lines which can cause sewer spills from manholes onto roads into the environment. Repairs to sewer lines blocked by grease cost the VIWMA in excess of half a million dollars a year in line televising, cleaning and repairs.

Additional information will be issued to territorial business establishments regarding this subject; however, businesses are asked to immediately cease illegal dumping at bin sites and ensure business waste is being handled in compliance with established VI Code and Regulations. 

Police Commissioner Names New Police Chiefs

January 30, 2020

ST. THOMAS, USVI – Police Commissioner Trevor A. Velinor, in a press briefing held at the Public Finance Authority Conference Room on Thursday, announced Sidney Elskoe as his new Chief of Police in the St. Croix District, and Ludrick Thomas as the Chief of Police in the St. Thomas / St. John District.

Chief Elskoe has been with the VIPD for 25 years, working in various sections of the Department, to include the Marine Unit, Executive Security Unit and the Criminal Investigation Bureaus. He was also assigned to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force and was the Commander of the Virgin Islands Crime Initiative. Prior to his selection as Chief, he held the rank of Captain.

Chief Thomas is a 29-year veteran of the Department. He has worked in the patrol division as both a patrol officer and a supervisor in St. Thomas and St. John. He has supervised the patrol division, the Criminal Investigation Bureau and the Executive Security Unit. Most recently, Thomas was assigned as a supervisory sergeant at the Training Bureau

Velinor said of choosing the new Police Chiefs, “I assessed the Department and identified these men as having the competence and character to lead others. They are lifelong public servants and are credit to the community. They have pledged to work to make the Department better and the community safer.

Police Commissioner Velinor also introduced the rest of his Senior Leadership Team, which includes Assistant Police Commissioner Mario Brooks, Deputy Police Commissioner of Professional Standards Jason Marsh, Chief of Staff Alekisha Joy Petersen, and Chief Strategy Officer Dr. Kysha Fedd. He also identified other members of his senior team, to include Deputy Police Commissioner of Operations Dr. Celvin Walwyn, Human Resource Director Dwayne Richards, and Chief Financial Officer Sandra Webster, and agency Administrator Keya Canaii.

Photo caption: VIPD Senior Leadership Team poses after press brief. L to R: Chief of Staff Alekisha Joy Petersen, Deputy Police Commissioner of Professional Standards Jason Marsh, Assistant Police Commissioner Mario Brooks, Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor, St. Thomas / St. John Police Chief Ludrick Thomas, St. Croix Police Chief Sidney Elskoe, and Chief Strategy Officer Dr. Kysha Fedd.

BMV Launches “Skip the Line, Renew Online” Vehicle Registration

January 30,2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS— The Bureau of Motor (BMV) is excited to announce a new online vehicle registration system, which is set to launch on January 31, 2020.

Previously, registration required a trip to the BMV office which required a long wait time. Residents can now “skip the line and renew online” with this new system, which benefits all vehicle owners, said BMV Director Barbara Jackson-McIntosh.

Vehicles that are 6 years old or less do not require a physical inspection and can completely renew their vehicles online. Vehicles between 6 to 10 years old are inspected every two years. Meanwhile, residents with vehicles older than 10 years must visit the BMV every year, get their vehicles inspected, and complete the renewal process online.

Online registration is fast and easy:

• First, register at BMV.vi.gov

• Then, access your account to make a payment. Choose whether you want your receipt printed or emailed for your records

. • All final registration documents and sticker will be sent through the mail. The BMV anticipates an overwhelming response so we project that it will take 4-6 weeks to get the new registration and sticker in the mail. •

To help streamline the process, insurance agencies must send customers insurance cards to insurance@bmv.vi.gov. In the subject line include the vehicle’s VIN# and the customer’s name.

Director Jackson-McIntosh encourages customers to renew early to ensure they receive their renewal in a timely manner. Customers can renew their registration up to 3 months before their registration deadline, she said. BMV’s “Skip the Line, Renew Online” initiative is one of several identified to improve efficiency and service within the agency.

Later this year, additional online services will become available, including applying for driver’s licenses/identification cards, disabled placards, personalized license plate, and moving permits, along with online scheduling for the written and road tests.

Governor Bryan Announces $69 million from FEMA to Begin Replacement of Tutu Hi-Rise Apartments

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced Thursday that the administration and the Virgin Islands Housing Authority has received a $69 million obligation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund the demolition and replacement of residential buildings at the Tutu Hi-Rise housing community.

The funding will facilitate the demolition and replacement of the first five of 17 residential buildings at Tutu Hi-Rise housing community damaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

Virgin Islands Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Graham said Thursday that the funding would allow the authority the move forward with its plans to demolish and begin construction to replace buildings 10, 11, 12, 14 and 22 at the complex.

The Tutu Hi-Rise project is broken into three phases and calls for the demolition and reconstruction of approximately 300 units. Phase 1 comprises 84 units

“I am extremely grateful for the continued support of FEMA and our other federal partners in our recovery and rebuilding efforts,” Governor Bryan said. “This funding will help us make significant headway in completing one of our major priority projects in the disaster recovery, and I want to thank VIHA Executive Director Robert Graham and ODR Director Adrienne Williams-Octalien for their hard work.”

During his State of the Territory Address in January, Governor Bryan highlighted the 3-phase redevelopment and repositioning of the Tutu housing community as the beginning of the Bryan/Roach Administration’s opportunity to change the face of public housing throughout the Virgin Islands.

The funding announced Thursday is authorized under Section 428 of the Robert T. Stafford Act.

 

 

 

Alerts:

A Portion of Melvin Evans Highway Closed for Road Work

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Governor Bryan Convenes Workgroup Focused on Implementing Telehealth Services in the Territory

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr continued his administration’s efforts to digitize government Wednesday by convening the first meeting of the telehealth workgroup to begin the planning and implementation of telehealth services in the territory.

The workgroup, which comprises key stakeholders from both the public and private sectors, will spearhead the regulation and implementation of health information technology in the territory and will lead the coordination of telehealth services among healthcare providers.

One of healthcare’s fastest-growing initiatives, telehealth, is the use of mobile technology to extend the reach of physicians and healthcare providers beyond traditional clinical settings and includes video doctor visits and remote patient monitoring.

Governor Bryan said Wednesday that telemedicine is changing the future of healthcare and will prove critical to providing access to medical care for people living in rural areas like the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“We have a great opportunity now as we rebuild our healthcare infrastructure in the territory to ensure that we include telehealth services as a key component,” Governor Bryan said. “Telemedicine can improve access to healthcare for those specialties with low volume and no provider readily available on the island and making sure that we put the right plans and infrastructure in place will amount to greater access to healthcare for Virgin Islands residents.”

In its work to implement telehealth services in the territory, the governor’s workgroup will focus on policy and regulation, including Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement, malpractice insurance coverage, licensing of providers, and the implementation of enabling legislation.

The workgroup will also focus on mapping out technical infrastructure, including assessing broadband capacity and access to broadband services, as well as planning disaster resiliency and redundancy. The group will also focus on practitioner and patient readiness and expects to utilize available federal resources to fund the coordination of its activities.

In October, the administration was awarded $14 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to build a Health Information Exchange for VI Medicaid recipients

 

The Virgin Isalnds Mourns the Death of Anne Abramson, Long Time Business Woman & Public Servant

She was 95 years old

January 26, 2020

Ann Elizabeth Abramson was born on the island of St. Croix and was the last of 15 children of the Christian family. She attended St. Patrick's School in Frederiksted and upon graduation, she embarked on a career with the local government as an executive secretary with the Department of Welfare and later on transferred to the Workers Compensation Division at the Department of Labor.

Abramson's first business was in 1949 when she started a taxi service to earn extra cash on weekends and became the first female in the territory to run a taxi.

In 1954,  Abramson was the only female to serve in the ninth municipal council of St. Croix.

In 1958, Governor Archie Alexander appointed Ann Abramson to complete the unexpired term of Senator John D Merwin, who had resigned from the Virgin Islands Legislature to become Government Secretary of the Virgin Islands.

Abramson's Taxi service Flourished and was awarded a contract to transfer students to and from school. a business that is still in existence today. She also went on to venture into several other fields of business.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. issued the following statement Sunday on the passing of Ann E. Abramson:

"Our community has lost an icon and a prominent historical figure. Mrs. Abramson was a trailblazer for Crucian women in business and politics and was indeed a pillar of the Frederiksted community. Her life and her many contributions to our cultural and political fabric are a true-telling of achievement and perseverance. Her remarkable work ethic and 95 years of life prove that hard work and commitment are the keys to a long and successful life. Yolanda and I extend our most heartfelt condolences to her family, especially her son Rudy and all in our community who mourn her loss," Bryan concluded.

Abramson was honored in 1995 and the Frederiksted Pier was named The Ann E. Abramson Pier.

 

Governor Bryan Submits Legislation to 33rd Legislature To Fund Completion of Paul E. Joseph Stadium

January  24, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has submitted legislation to the 33rd Legislature to allocate $8.2 million from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to be used for the completion of the long-awaited Paul E. Joseph Stadium renovation in Frederiksted.

In his transmittal letter to Senate President Novelle Francis Jr., Governor Bryan asks the legislative body to act expeditiously to approve the allocation so the money can be used to finish the reconstruction according to already completed design plans.

“As the Legislature is aware, the Government over successive Legislatures and Governors has been committed to the reconstruction of the Stadium and related facilities to enhance the economy of the Territory,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter to Sen. Francis.

“In my State of the Territory Address, I referenced the need and intent to enhance sports tourism as a dynamic new element of our economy. The Stadium plays a major part in that offering.

“The Stadium not only will be able to accommodate baseball but Little League, other field sports and provide a permanent location of the Crucian Festival Village,” he wrote.

During his State of the Territory Address on January 13, Governor Bryan underscored the need for the Territory to finally see the completion of the Paul E. Joseph Stadium project.

“To attract quality sporting events, we must build and maintain quality sporting venues. Without question, our Administration remains committed to the renovation of the Paul E. Joseph Stadium in Frederiksted, and we anticipate its long-awaited completion within the next 12 months,” Governor Bryan said.

 

 

 

Sea Flight between STX & STT Made Emergency Landing

January 23, 2020

Approximately 9:09 a.m. the 911 Emergency Call Center on St. Thomas received notice of a Sea Flight #394SF aircraft emergency landing on the water between St. Thomas and St. Croix.

All seven passengers on board the vessel appear to be safe and are currently being transported to St. Thomas for further evaluation by emergency personnel at this time.

Meanwhile, Governor Bryan in a statement released after the incident said a command and triage station was set up for the victims.

“Being involved in an aviation incident is a traumatic experience. Our thoughts this morning are with the seven passengers and crew of flight 394SF, and with their loved ones. We are especially grateful for the heroic efforts of the pilot for safely landing the aircraft and for the swift response of our first responders and that of the members of the St. Thomas boating community. We have set up an incident command and triage station and have tended to the needs of the passengers who have subsequently been released, " Bryan said.

 

Department of Human Services Hosts Pop-up Interviews for Qualified Social Workers on January 24 and 27

(US Virgin Islands) The USVI Department of Human Services (DHS) has announced that the department will be holding interviews for qualified walk-in Social Worker applicants this Friday, January 24 and Monday, January 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Knud Hansen Complex on St. Thomas and the Anna’s Hope Head Start Administration Building on St. Croix.

The department is seeking to fill a number of social work positions (Social Work Levels I, II and III) across the agency within the next few months. Therefore, they have created this expedited, rapid interview process.

Qualified candidates must possess and bring:

• Valid license to practice social work in the Virgin Islands

• Proof of identity

• Proof of education credentials

Job descriptions and applications will be provided on site. Qualified candidates will be able to provide professional social work or rehabilitation counseling with supervision. DHS social workers work on complex cases that require knowledge of the local laws rules, regulations, and department policies and procedures. All qualified candidates are encouraged to attend and explore becoming a part of the DHS team. Check out the DHS Facebook page for additional details: www.facebook.com/usvidhs/?epa=Search_BOX or contact jobs@dhs.vi.gov.

Governor Bryan Takes Action on 31 Bills

January  21, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. took action on 31 bills, approving 26 of them, vetoing four others and using his line-item veto on another.

Among the bills Governor Bryan approved is Bill No. 33-0143, which updates the Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) program to encourage capital investment in the USVI; Bill No. 33-0107, which allows for advertising on the sides of VITRAN buses; Bill No. 33-119, which mandates that business licenses must be issued within three days and authorizes the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs to refuse to issue, revoke or suspend licenses that do not meet regulatory requirements; Bills No. 33-0200 and 33-0201, which strengthen penalties for driving under the influence; and Bill No. 33-219, which creates a 180-day amnesty period to waive penalties regarding income tax and Gross Receipts taxes and a 90-day amnesty period to waive penalties relating to property taxes for 2017 and 2018 to assist residents recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The Governor also approved Bill No. 33-0117, which designates May 17 as “Virgin Islands Flag Day”; Bill No. 33-0134, which established a Psychiatric Medical Doctoral Program Scholarship; Bill No. 33-0087, which requires monthly filing of Gross Receipts for businesses established less than five years and businesses whose Gross Receipts exceed $225,000 per year; Bill No. 33-0091, which mandates that businesses post required labor law posters in a conspicuous place inside their businesses; and Bill No. 33-0109, which prohibits the issuance of marriage licenses to persons younger than 18.

Bill No. 33-0151, which increases the threshold for summary administration of estates in the Virgin Islands from $300 to $100,000, also was approved.

“This Bill will be extremely helpful to the community, which will benefit from a shortened probate process and now allows for expedited passage of a larger value of assets on a summary basis,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter to Senate President Novelle Francis Jr.

Although he signed Bill No. 33-0019, which addresses the maximum number of instructional hours available to students in the public schools, the Governor said he has “grave reservations” about the bill.

“Although I support any law which ensures that students receive the maximum instructional hours available to assist in their achievement of higher learning and intellectual development, this law as written does not accomplish this goal,” Governor Bryan wrote. “It will reduce the 2019-2020 academic school year, providing up to approximately ten less days of instructional hours for students this year.”

“I am, further, concerned that ‘instructional hours’ is an undefined term with unknown implications on teachers’ pay and collective bargaining agreement mandates, and that ending the school year in May during 2020 will negatively affect current costs, staff and contracts (including business contracts) with the Department of Education,” the Governor wrote, requesting that the 33rd Legislature amend the bill to address those concerns and go into effect on a later date to avoid disrupting the current school year.

Vetoes

Governor Bryan said he vetoed Bill No. 33-0036, which amends Title 32, Chapter 11 Section 203 of the Virgin Islands Code and that regulates horse racing to create a definition of the word “horse.” The Governor said while the intent of the bill is clear, the language used has a detrimental effect on horse racing regulations.

“At first glance, the use of the word ‘thoroughbred’ as a definition for ‘horse’ seems to limit horse racing to the racing of thoroughbreds,” he wrote in the transmittal letter. “In actuality, by placing this language in Title 32, Chapter 11 of the V.I. Code controlling horse racing, the Legislature will now limit the authority of the Horse Racing Commission to only thoroughbreds.”

Governor Bryan also vetoed Bill No. 33-0236, which appropriates $500,000 from the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund to the St. Croix Drag Racing Association for the development of the St. Croix Motor Sports Complex, because the funding source n the measure is incorrect.

“As much as the Administration is fully supportive of the development of the drag racing track, I, unfortunately, must veto Bill No. 33-0236,” The Governor wrote to Sen. Francis. “Please note that Bill No. 33-0236 needs to be amended to reflect the correct funding source, which is the Internal Revenue Matching Fund.”

The Governor vetoed Bill No. 33-0044, which would require the Virgin Islands Taxicab Commission to establish an electronic monetary payment system and said the wording of the bill would unfairly and impractically require the Commission to operate such a system and creates new layers of “red tape.”

“In our attempt to push an industry forward into technology, we must not place undue burdens on a commission that cannot regulate electronic monetary systems,” Governor Bryan wrote. “The Taxicab Commission may pass and enforce rules requiring the taxis to provide an electronic form of payment, but the Commission itself, as worded in the bill, cannot establish and operate an electronic monetary system, which requires direct interaction with banking or merchant services systems.”

Bill No. 33-0095, which would enact the Virgin Islands Medicaid Program Integrity Act, was vetoed because it does not contain critical amendments requested by Attorney General Denise George to ensure territorial compliance with federal requirements, Governor Bryan said.

“At the risk of losing funding for such a critical matter, this bill cannot be signed into law until it complies with federal guidelines,” Governor Bryan wrote. “It is essential that the bill follow the federal guidelines and not compromise the Territory’s compliance with federal regulations and funding.”

Governor Bryan also used his line-item veto on Bill No. 33-0123, which earmarks a percentage of the Government of the Virgin Islands budget to support local agriculture, based on his concerns of setting a flat recurring percentage of funding at 1 percent.

“I believe the Department of Agriculture should be funded to promote the growth of the farming industry in the Virgin Islands, and I support it receiving additional funds,” Governor Bryan wrote. “However, I note that in the future it may need more than 1 percent, and this should be determined on an annual basis based upon prioritized agricultural initiatives.”

Department of Human Services Responds to Sea View Nursing Home Facility Closure

(US Virgin Islands) The USVI Department of Human Services (DHS) Department of Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez, today informed the public that the Department is working closely with the Sea View Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility as they close their residential services to severely disabled adults and senior citizens on January 30, 2020.

Although Sea View’s formal relationship with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ended on or about January 30, 2016 and Sea View was decertified as a Skilled Nursing Facility, Dr. Alfred Heath, owner of Sea View, continued to provide much needed nursing home services to longtime residents of the Home and others who became residents after CMS decertification.

Currently, there are six (6) residents at the Sea View Nursing facility - a combination of senior citizens and adults with severe disabilities. The Department of Human Services, as the recognized State Unit on Aging by the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living, in conjunction with family members where applicable, has initiated plans to safely and humanely transition these six residents to other care facilities to include but not limited to the Queen Louise and the Herbert Grigg Homes for the Aged. Commissioner CauseyGomez shared,“Our immediate and critical charge facing the closure of Sea View was to carefully plan the transition of the one resident our department has legal guardianship over. However, though only one resident is in our guardianship, we have made it our priority to also work with Sea View to plan the transition of the other residents to other facilities, which are able to meet their physical, mental and emotional care needs.”

The Sea View Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility began operations on June 19, 1993. Since that time the Department of Human Services has worked in close partnership with Sea View’s staff and management. Commissioner Causey-Gomez noted Dr. Heath’s vision and commitment and said, “DHS is grateful for Dr. Heath and his vision and commitment, that has allowed thousands of residents from St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John to receive quality medical, continuous nursing, health and social services for decades within our community, at Sea View. The Department of Human Services is in the midst of a thorough assessment and plan to address the continued and growing need for CMS certified Skilled Nursing Facility and a wide range of services for our seniors in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We are grateful for Governor Albert Bryan’s leadership and support our growth efforts in this regard.”

Additional residential and day treatment services provided by St. Thomas Health Care Management, Inc., often referred to as Sea View, will continue at the current site, without interruption.

Governor Bryan Submits Legislation To Reform USVI Mental Health System

January 16, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has submitted legislation to the 33rd Legislature to overhaul and reform the Territory’s mental health system with sweeping changes that address gaps in services to residents who suffer from behavioral health challenges, mental health disorders, developmental disabilities, alcoholism, and drug addiction.

The legislation called the Virgin Islands Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Act, would establish the Territory’s first behavioral health, mental health, developmental disability and alcohol and substance abuse facility.

The Act also mandates the formation of the Behavioral Health Council of the Virgin Islands, a citizens advisory board comprising seven members and development of an enforceable set of standards for public and private treatment facilities.

The administration and development of the reformed mental health system falls primarily under the management of the Virgin Islands Health Commissioner, and the Health Department will closely coordinate program development with the Department of Education, Bureau of Corrections, Virgin Islands Police Department, Judiciary, Department of Human Services and other relevant departments or agencies.

A Division of Behavioral Health, Mental Health, Developmental Disability, Alcoholism, and Drug Dependency Services would be created within the Department of Health and overseen by a Director required to be a licensed medical practitioner in the field of behavioral health or mental

The Act will also allow for interdepartmental coordination between the court, government agencies, private and public facilities, health professionals and non-profit organizations to address Virgin Islanders' mental health needs through the creation and expansion of new divisions, programs, treatments, and patient rights policies.

The Act would establish Community Service Networks to coordinate and ensure continuity of care; establish a Crisis Intervention Program and Crisis Intervention Team; provide for Protective Custody for persons who may be a danger to themselves or others; provide behavioral health training for first-responders and education personnel; and actively participate in competency hearings and other judicial proceedings and criminal issues relating to persons with behavioral and mental health problems.

Additionally, the Act sets enforceable rules, procedures and policies governing all aspects of the treatment of behavioral health problems, developmental disability issues, alcoholism and drug dependency, including but not limited to voluntary and involuntary commitment; progressive treatment programs; patient care and patients’ rights, including for children and young adults; hospitalization outside the Territory and transfers to other facilities; and the use of medication.

Mario M. Brooks Named VI Assistant Police Commissioner

Police Commissioner Trevor A. Velinor announced the appointment of Lieutenant Mario M. Brooks as Assistant Police Commissioner.

Assistant Commissioner Brooks has been with the VIPD for 25 years, working in various sections of the Department, to include the Special Operations and Criminal Intelligence Bureaus. Brooks comes with 27 years of military experience where he holds the rank of Major in the Virgin Islands National Guard. His current position is Deputy Inspector General, and he has served as the Commander of the Military Police Detachment. Assistant Commissioner Brooks has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Business and Organizational Security Management.

Police Commissioner Velinor said it was his honor to select Brooks as his Assistant Commissioner. “He is level-headed but passionate about public safety and serving the community. He exudes a humble disposition and yet he does what is required to get the job done. After considering external and internal candidates, I found Brooks to be the right person to serve in this position and I am elated that he accepted the call to continued service to our community,” stated Commissioner Velinor.

 

VI Governor Albert Bryan Gave His 2nd State of the Territory Address Monday Night

Overall the Governor painted a bright picture for the Virgin Islands

Read the Governor's entire speech here.

USVI Governor Announces $14.9M Federal Grant for Health Information Exchange for Medicaid

January 10, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS— Governor Albert Bryan Jr. today announced that the US Virgin Islands has been awarded $14.9 million in federal funding to implement a Health Information Exchange (HIE) for the Territory’s approximately 29,000 Medicaid recipients and to continue promoting the use of certified electronic health record technology by healthcare providers.

The US Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (HHS-CMS) has approved $14,990,078 to be utilized between fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to build an HIE for VI Medicaid recipients. The funding is also to be used for the continued administration of the Promoting Interoperability program in the Territory. HHS-CMS’ funding approval authorizes $8,810,501 for Fiscal Year 2020 and $4,680,569 for Fiscal Year 2021, with the federal share at $13,491,070, or 90 percent, and a local match of $1,499,008 or 10 percent. The VI Department of Human Services will administer the funds and is tasked with establishing the HIE.

An HIE allows doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers and patients to access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information electronically – improving the speed, quality, safety and cost of patient care. Also, in 2011, HHS-CMS created the Promoting Interoperability program which incentivizes eligible professionals and hospitals to adopt, implement, upgrade as well as successfully demonstrate the use of certified electronic health record technology.

“Implementing a health information exchange in the USVI is essential to building a 21st century healthcare infrastructure,” Governor Bryan said Thursday. “A real-time interoperable territorial HIE is critical because it would eliminate redundant tests and procedures, increase patient engagement by allowing patients to view their health information in real time, and increase quality of care since longitudinal information may exist. Overall this will improve health outcomes.”

“This effort will require strategic partnerships between the public and private sectors and non- governmental organizations,” the Governor said. “These partners must work collectively and collaboratively to develop and sustain the territorial HIE. We must also look beyond our current needs and plan for the future. The territorial HIE should be not limited to local public and private providers but also to those providing care on the US mainland and beyond.”

HHS-CMS plans to conduct onsite reviews of the program to determine if the objectives for which the federal funding was approved are being accomplished and to verify that the program is being administered effectively and efficiently.

Governor Bryan thanked former Delegate to Congress Donna Christiansen, and leadership teams of the VI departments of Health and Human Services and local hospital and health center officials for working closely with his office on the HIE initiative.

VIFS Receives Award from FEMA for Wind Retrofit Project for Richmond Fire Station

January 9, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), recently awarded $664,316 to the Virgin Islands Fire Service (VIFS) for the Herbert L. Canegata (Richmond) Fire Station Wind Retrofit Project to renovate all three buildings in accordance to the 2018 International Building Code.

The wind retrofit for the fire station’s existing structures will consist of the installation of hurricane-rated shutters; impact and wind rated, single and double glass steel entry and garage bay doors; hurricane straps to harden the roof to wall connections and steel framing; and other methods to increase the wind load capacity.

“This is a great day for the Virgin Islands Fire Service. We are taking another step toward making our facilities stronger and more resilient. Stronger facilities benefit not only the Fire Service but also the community we serve,” Daryl A. George, Director of the Virgin Islands Fire Service. “We are grateful to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and our other disaster recovery partners- the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, Witt O’Brien’s and the Office of Disaster Recovery- for their support of projects like this.”

In addition to the retrofit of the Herbert L. Canegata Fire Station, exterior equipment such as lighting, security cameras, electrical components, HVAC implements, solar panels, and all communication mechanisms will be secured with hurricane rated strapping or bracing. Also included is the hardening of external fixtures such as gutters, downspouts, and roof vents.

“The retrofit of the Richmond Fire Station will secure the provision of critical services in the event of a disaster,” Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Office of Disaster Recovery Director. “We continue to work closely with our local and federal partners to develop and obligate initiatives to strengthen our infrastructure.”

Virgin Islands Department of Human Services Releases Audit Findings After the Death of 4 Yr Old Child

January 8, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Following the tragic death of 4-year-old Aaron Benjamin, Jr. in October 2019, Commissioner Causey-Gomez authorized the launch of an internal audit and investigation of the Department of Human Services (DHS) to determine how department practices and policies should be revisited to help prevent future tragedies involving children in the Territory.

As a result of the audit, the Commissioner announced that DHS is instituting internal staffing changes and intensive training.

“The Department of Human Services’ recent audit of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ child welfare system revealed a need to implement immediate staffing changes and a need to expedite our recruitment efforts to enhance staffing levels across units; a need for additional forensic and social services training; a need for a more stringent level of internal accountability and supervision; a mandate for implementation of current national evidence-based and outcome-oriented best practices; and a need to increase additional public awareness of resources, education and training on tools available through DHS and other community partners for child and family wellness,” Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez said.

“To this end, DHS has begun to restructure its child protective services system including personnel changes coupled with efforts to provide additional training and supervision and accountability,” she said.

“DHS staff have begun participating in local and national training with federal and non-federal national partners, to include peer-to-peer on-site knowledge exchange,” Commissioner Causey-Gomez said. “Technical assistance is underway to complete a review of the Virgin Islands statutory Children’s Policy, in an effort to identify areas in need of federal compliance as a vehicle to inform needed upgrades to the local practice model for child welfare.”

“The Department of Human Services realizes that while child protective services systems work every day to prevent instances of a child fatality, efforts are never 100 percent guaranteed,” Commissioner Causey-Gomez said. “Therefore, the territory will be joining the rest of the nation by establishing a Child Fatality Review Panel of multiagency experts to facilitate expeditious, transparent and ongoing assessment and investigation of any such future incidences to help aid in prevention. In the coming months, we will also be assertively engaging with key community partners to help educate and empower our community to play a role in protecting children.”

The Commissioner further shared that the audit revealed staff followed policies and procedures and did not uncover wanton negligence in the Aaron Benjamin Jr. case. However, as a result of changes brought about by the audit, disciplinary actions have been taken to address deficiencies by some staff in the execution of their duties. HIPAA regulations and protected personnel information prevent the department from sharing additional details.

DHS has just begun an exhaustive strategic planning process that will further identify objectives that will guide, enhance and improve the overall functioning of the Department of Human Services.

While sadly, no one individual and no one government agency can definitively prevent abuse and neglect from occurring, we can and must all know the tools and resources available to intervene if we suspect it. If you see something, say something. If you hear, see or suspect abuse or neglect of a child, please call DHS Intake at (340) 772.7119 on St. Croix and (340) 774.0930 ext. 4264 on St. Thomas. Always call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

V.I. Housing Finance Authority Receives Second Tranche of HUD Recovery Funding

.January 7, 2020

$779 Million Comes From Community Development Block Grants

ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) Executive Director Daryl Griffith announced today that the grant agreement for the second allocation of Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery (CDGB-DR) funding totaling $779,217,000 was recently transmitted from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan for signature.

This second tranche of CDBG-DR funding is in addition to the first tranche of $242,684,000 that the Territory received in September 2018 and will bring the total allocation to $1,021,901,000 which HUD has approved for long-term recovery from the twin hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

“We are excited that we are on our way to finally receive this long-awaited second allocation of HUD funding,” Director Griffith said. “Our action plan for this funding was delivered on time and then approved by HUD last March 2019.”

“We now look forward to the execution of the agreement so we can continue to keep our recovery on track,” Director Griffith continued. “After the agreement is fully executed, HUD informs VIHFA that the Territory will have access to allocate the full $779 million for all approved disaster recovery projects.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. thanked the federal agency and HUD Secretary Ben Carson for keeping his promise to deliver the funding before the end of the year.

“This second tranche of funding was crucial to our efforts at recovery and although it was delayed, these additional funds allow us to redouble our efforts toward recovering from Irma and Maria,” the Governor said. “As our recovery from the hurricanes progresses, my Administration remains dedicated to stabilizing the Territory’s economy and rebuilding stronger for the future.”

More than $1 billion from tranche 1 and 2 CDBG-DR funding has been budgeted for various long-term housing recovery, infrastructure and economic revitalization projects such as the EnVision Tomorrow housing and rental reconstruction program which was launched in the Spring of last year, Water and Power Authority projects to restore and improve the electricity distribution including purchasing four new energy-efficient generators, improvements to the Territory’s ports and airports, and support for the Tourism industry and workforce development.

ABOUT THE VIHFA

The Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority manages the various HUD programs in the Territory including CDBG-DR grants.

The VIHFA was created in 1981 to ensure that all U.S. citizens living in the U.S. Virgin Islands have an opportunity to obtain safe, sanitary, decent and affordable housing. The VIHFA uses tax-exempt Mortgage Revenue Bonds, Low Income Housing Tax Credits, HOME Funding, Community Development Block Grants, local subsidies and other funding to stimulate the development of affordable housing throughout the Territory.

 

In Light of the Recent Tremors in the Region, VITEMA Urges Virgin Islanders to Prepare

January 7, 2020

In light of the recent earthquakes occurring in the region, VITEMA suggests the following preparedness tips:

1. Commit yourself to establishing your emergency "go-bag" in the event that you may need to evacuate quickly from your area. It is beneficial to have one in the home and in your vehicle

2. Discuss meeting points and reuniting plans should family members be located in different areas at the time of an event.

3. Practice the "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" earthquake response technique with the elderly and children. Be sure to inform your loved ones to look around the area before moving once shaking stops.

4. If you can, volunteer to work as a team for the vulnerable such as those with mobility limitations or single mothers with multiple children.

5. Be sure that you have a battery-operated radio available in the event that communication systems become impaired. Follow instructions provided by VITEMA and other official sources.

6. Be sure that you are subscribed to Alert VI by visiting www.vitema.vi.gov. Adjust your settings to get the information that is most relevant to your household.

VITEMA stands ready to respond should an earthquake or tsunami event affect the USVI.

Remain calm, take deep breaths, and stay #VI Strong

Governor Bryan Convenes First Meeting Of Marine Task Force

January 2, 2020

ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Tuesday convened the first meeting of his Marine Task Force, a group of private sector individuals representing all aspects of the Marine Industry in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The purpose of the Marine Task Force is to revitalize and grow the Marine Industry in the Territory to boost the economy, create jobs for residents through workforce development and enhance the USVI’s Tourism product. The Task Force is intended to be a public-private partnership between Marine-based businesses and the Government of the Virgin Islands

At its inaugural meeting, the group discussed a wide range of topics, including:

*Building up marine infrastructure

*Increasing moorings throughout the Territory

*Developing Marine apprenticeship programs to broaden job opportunities for residents in the Marine industry

*Maximizing the potential of Benner Bay on St. Thomas

*Expanding the Marine Service industries to encourage additional vessels to stay in the U.S. Virgin Island’s marine maintenance for marine maintenance and annual vessel haul-outs

Streamlining the U.S. Customs process

“It was a very productive meeting and an excellent start to my Administration’s initiative of greatly enhancing our Marine Industry, increase revenue and stabilize the economy and provide more offerings for visitors,” Governor Bryan said. “The takeaway was a number of action items to get the Task Force started, and I am encouraged by the knowledge and enthusiasm of the Task Force participants.”

Governor Bryan also announced that DPNR vessel registration for 2020-2021 will be available online and that DPNR is currently mapping all registered vessel moorings in the territory on Google Earth. When the mapping project is completed, it will allow DPNR to connect the mooring to the owner quickly in the event of any disaster.

Additionally, the Virgin Islands Port Authority on Tuesday began the installation of new mooring cleats along the St. Thomas Waterfront. The cleats will allow berthing by luxury yachts up to 23 metric tons. Installation should be completed in two weeks, and cleats then will be installed on the Crown Bay excursion dock will be next, followed by Red Hook and Cruz Bay, St. John.

The Governor’s Marine Task Force plans to meet next in February 2020.

 

DHS Announces Delay in (AABD),(TANF),(AABD),(GT),(GA)& (GA)for Those Receiving Public Assistance Funds

December 31, 2019

Department of Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez is notifying all persons who receive Public Assistance also known as Cash Benefits – which Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Aid to Aged, Blind, and Disabled (AABD), General Tutor (GT), General Assistance (GA) and General Disability (GD) – that their benefits will be available as follows:

Banco Popular ATH Cardholders will have their benefits available on their cards by or before the end of December 31, 2019.

All Other Banks ATH Cardholders will have their benefits available on their cards on Thursday, January 2, 2020.

Commissioner Causey-Gomez wishes all DHS clients and the wider Virgin Islands community a Happy New Year!

For further questions or inquiries, please call 340-772-7100 ext. 7121 on St. Croix or 340-774-2399 for the St. Thomas-St. John District.

Please note, the Department of Human Services Division of Family Assistance will re-open at 8:00 a.m. January 2, 2020.

FEMA Awards the Territory $233 Million To Pay STEP Program Contractors and Other Costs

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded the Territory $232,919,518 in federal funding to use to cover costs of the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority’s Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power Pilot Program (STEP).

The STEP Program ended in April and was designed to allow residents to remain in their homes while temporary repairs were being made. It has been replaced by the EnVision Tomorrow Housing Recovery Repair Program for homes and rental units, and it provides federal funding to qualified residents for permanent repairs necessitated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Governor Bryan said Monday that his administration had been hard at work on this issue since taking office in January and expressed his gratitude to FEMA and Acting Administrator Pete Gaynor for FEMA’s continued support in the Territory’s recovery.

“Keeping the recovery on track is one of our key priorities, and we have worked tirelessly since taking office this year to clean up the past discrepancies in this program,” Governor Bryan said. “Today, I am proud to announce that we can now move forward with providing the much-needed payments to the STEP contractors, who have been more than patient throughout this process.”

“I want to thank FEMA, and Acting Administrator Gaynor, as well as Office of Disaster Recovery Director Adrienne Williams-Octalien and Virgin Islands House Finance Authority Executive Director Daryl Griffith for all of their efforts,” the Governor added.

The award is new funding from FEMA and primarily will be used to reimburse contractors who participated in STEP repairs following Hurricane Maria in 2017. In October, Governor Bryan and his senior staff met with FEMA Acting Administrator Peter Gaynor in Washington, D.C., and invited him to the Territory to continue the discussion and to see firsthand the status of the recovery.

Governor Bryan Thanks 33rd Legislature, Calls for Collaboration on Long-Term Solution for WAPA

December 27, 2019

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS— Following today’s vote to reprogram funds to pay Vitol, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. thanked senators of the 33rd Legislature for working collaboratively with the executive branch to address the VI Water and Power Authority’s (WAPA) propane supply crisis.

“Thank you to the senators who voted in favor of reappropriating funds to avert a crisis that would have significantly and negatively impacted the people of this territory,” Governor Bryan said shortly following the vote. “This is a clear indication that no matter where we stand on the issues, the executive and legislative branch can work collaboratively for the people of the Virgin Islands.”

The vote was taken during an Emergency Legislative Session held on St. Thomas where senators considered testimony provided by VI Office of Management and Budget Director Jenifer O’Neal on the availability of VI government funding, from WAPA officials on the utility’s financial status and from Public Services Commission (PSC) officials on their decision not to consider WAPA’s request for a base rate adjustment.

Following several hours of testimony, senators voted to reappropriate $6 million in funding from FY 2020 budget to assist WAPA in meeting its financial obligation to Vitol for December 2019 and January 2020.

Senators also voted to require semi-autonomous agencies and instrumentalities of the VI government to submit a quarterly financial report to the Legislature effective January 2020.

Senators voting in favor of the reappropriation were Marvin Blyden, Dwayne DeGraff, Novelle Francis, Donna Frett-Gregory, Kenneth Gittens, Stedmann Hodge, Jr., Javan James, Steven Payne Sr., Janelle Sarauw, Athneil Thomas and Kurt Vialet. Senators Allision DeGazon, Alicia Barnes, and Oakland Benta were absent for the vote.

“The reappropriation of $6 million in funds is only a short-term fix, and now we have to look more comprehensively at the long-term solution,” Governor Bryan said of Friday’s vote. “We must address WAPA’s request for a base rate adjustment to help to stabilize the utility’s unstable financial position.

” The adjustment requested by WAPA -- which is still on the table with the PSC -- would not have resulted in a rate increase to the ratepayer because it was balanced by the decrease in the fuel charge and the discontinuation of the generator surcharge, the governor stated. The PSC did, however, unanimously vote to decrease the electric and water Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause (LEAC) rates.

“But I also acknowledge and share the serious concerns of the all sitting senators over WAPA’s lack of transparency about its financial situation,” the governor said. “There must be accountability and assurances from WAPA for us to move forward. The people of the territory will no longer accept lip service, and we must hold WAPA’s feet to the fire.”

Governor Bryan has said that his administration and the Legislature have agreed that WAPA needs to fulfill its obligations to the ratepayers by making needed improvements to its management structure and by resolving billing discrepancies.

The emergency legislative session was called following meetings held on Saturday and on Monday between Governor Bryan, Lieutenant Governor Tregenza Roach, and all 15 senators of the 33rd Legislature to address WAPA’s propane supply crisis.

On Saturday, Dec. 21, Vitol ceased supplying propane to WAPA following a default notice issued on Dec. 12. The move effectively forced WAPA to shut down its most efficient propane-fueled generators and began using more expensive No. 2 oil on its older, less efficient generators.

WAPA officials have said the utility does not have revenues to pay the higher fuel costs and will not be able to sustain electrical generation without an immediate infusion of cash.

 

Governor Bryan, 33rd Legislature Identify Funding to Resume Supply of Propane Gas to WAPA

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During a follow-up meeting Monday at Government House, Governor Albert Bryan Jr., Lieutenant Governor Tregenza Roach and all 15 senators of the 33rd Legislature, have identified funding to meet the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s outstanding obligation to its propane supplier, Vitol.

The Legislature has scheduled an Emergency Legislative session for Friday, December 27, 2019, at 10 a.m. to vote on the measure to reappropriate $6 million from the Miscellaneous section of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.

The appropriation measure will assist WAPA in meeting its financial obligation to Vitol for December 2019 and January 2020.

Governor Bryan emphasized on Monday that the immediate need is centered on assisting WAPA to move from diesel fuel back to the less expensive propane gas, but a long-term solution to addressing the authority’s debt to Vitol remains a top priority.

“Not being on propane fuel costs us about $200,000 a day,” Governor Bryan said. “The senate has agreed to reappropriate funds form the Miscellaneous part of the budget to give WAPA the immediate cash they need.”

Prior to Monday’s meeting, Governor Bryan also requested that the lawmakers work alongside his Administration to develop a long-term solution to addressing WAPA’s mounting debt, which includes supporting an adjustment in the utility’s base rate.

Senators agreed to work with the Administration on a long-term solution, which includes possibly developing legislation to ensure the funds generated from a base rate adjustment are used for its intended purpose.

Governor Bryan said Monday that his administration and the Legislature have agreed that WAPA needs to fulfill its obligations to the ratepayers by making needed improvements to its management structure and by resolving costly billing discrepancies.

“We agreed to work together to hold WAPA accountable to the people. Many questions have been posed that need to be answered,” Governor Bryan said. “Our intent is to create a solution that is well thought-out and holds WAPA accountable. Our goal, always, is to have a more reliable and affordable power grid.”

 

Governor Names New Warden For Criminal Justice Complex on St. Thomas

.ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has appointed Mr. Ishmael Smittie as the new warden for the Criminal Justice Complex on St. Thomas, effective December 9, 2019.

Mr. Smittie has more than 32 years of correctional experience. He rose through the ranks from Correctional Officer to Captain while working at more than 20 different correctional facilities in the state and federal system.

Mr. Smittie holds a master of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio; a bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from the American InterContinental University in Atlanta, Ga.; and an associate of Applied Science in Legal Assistance from Virginia College in Birmingham, Ala.

He has completed special training in the areas of Investigative Intelligence; Case Management; Use of Force; Unit Management Disciplinary Hearing; Financial Management; Central Inmate Monitoring; Command Officer; and Special Weapons and Tactics Training.

The Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections welcomes Mr. Smittie, who will be responsible for overseeing the day to day operations of the Criminal Justice Complex on St. Thomas.

LOCAL PUBLIC TELEVISION STATION, WTJX IS NOW ON DISH NETWORK

At long last, WTJX-TV, the Virgin Islands PBS member station, is available on the local DISH Network. “I am over the moon that we are finally available on Dish and we can be found on the same virtual channel that we have had for 47 years, Channel 12,” beamed WTJX’s CEO, Tanya-Marie Singh. “Dish customers will now get the best of both worlds, the PBS national programs that we all know and love, and the best in local programming.”

Dish customers will get their first big treat in January when WTJX broadcasts the festival parades live on January 3 and 4 as we celebrate Music, Culture, and Pageantry. And, on January 13, we get down to business as we bring live coverage of Governor Albert Bryan’s second State of the Territory Address.

“I would like to thank everyone that got us to this point, especially viNGN and its COO, Daryl Wade, Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, and the professionals at the Dish Network who have been so patient with us during our transition,” stated Singh. “I’m pleased to give Dish customers this Christmas gift.”

"Speaking of Christmas gifts, on Christmas Day we have a fantastic lineup. In the morning we have Children’s Christmas programming. Then, beginning at noon, we bring you the following local Christmas programs: Rising Stars Christmas Concert, The Finest Panfest, We From Upstreet, 2006 Serenade, 2007 Serenade, as well as Sarah & Addie. At 7:00 pm, we catch up on what’s going on around the world with the PBS NewsHour. At 8:00 pm, we continue with the 2010 Serenade and at 9:00 pm, we move on with these national Christmas specials: Lucy Worsley’s 12 days of Tudor Christmas, Call The Midwife Holiday Special, and The Vicious Holiday Special."

WTJX-TV can be seen on Viya Cable Television, Dish Network, and with an antenna.

WAPA Payments Default: Can the Virgin Islands Afford to Keep the Lights on for You?

December 21, 2019

With news that VITOL, WAPA's propane supplier, would suspend propane deliveries at noon on Saturday, December 21, 2019, the VI Goverment held emergency meetings to come up with a concensus on the crisis plaguing the local utility company.

It is estimated that WAPA's default payments to VITOL is well over $3 Million figure.

Governor Bryan met with members of the legislature on Saturday to discuss the options available and finding immediate funding sources to keep WAPA afloat and to avert an energy crisis.

"Today, we agreed that WAPA has over the years have created a situation of fear, of uncertainty and definitely a lack of confidence among our constituents," Governor Bryan said.

Bryan also stated that at thier Saturday meeting, they agreed that WAPA must settle internal Issues such as, billing consumers bills that do not reflect thier meters usage.

"WAPA has agreed to hire additional meter readers and extend customer service hours on weekends to radicate these issues", Bryan said.

The two branches of government will meet again on Monday to continue finding solutions for WAPA. They even plan on meeting with VITOL officials to discuss the default payment.

On Tuesday, WAPA also petitioned the Public Services Commission to reconsider its decision of December 12 in which it lowered the fuel surcharge, known commonly as the LEAC, did not take any action on the base rate petition, and allowed the lease generation surcharge to expire at the end of this year.

 

Governor Bryan, 33rd Legislature Discuss Solutions to WAPA Propane Crisis in Emergency Meeting

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr., Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach and all 15 senators of the 33rd Legislature, in an emergency meeting held today, agreed to work collaboratively to identify funding to meet VI Water and Power Authority’s outstanding obligation to Vitol, in an effort to stave off an energy crisis that may leave ratepayers with heftier bills for unreliable service.

On Friday, Vitol, the company supplying propane gas to the utility, issued a default notice to WAPA saying it would suspend propane deliveries at noon today, Saturday.

The default notice came on the heels of yet another denial by the Public Services Commission (PSC) for a base rate increase, which would allow WAPA to refinance its debt. On Dec. 12, the PSC voted unanimously to decrease the electric Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause (LEAC) rates to 16.39 cents per kilowatt-hour, and the water LEAC to $5.03 per thousand gallons, effective Jan. 1 – without a corresponding increase in the base rate.

Following the PSC’s decision, Vitol declared the Authority in default of its payment obligations. The Authority has been petitioning the PSC since April for a base rate increase.

At approximately 11 a.m. today, Saturday, Vitol ceased operations at its propane facility, forcing WAPA to shut down its most efficient propane-fueled generators, and only use much more expensive No. 2 oil on its older, less efficient generators.

WAPA officials have said the utility does not have revenues to pay the higher fuel costs and will not be able to sustain electrical generation without an immediate infusion of cash.

Following the two-and-half-hour meeting held by video-conference between Governor Bryan, Lt. Gov. Roach, senators and Larry Kupfer, WAPA Chief Executive Officer, senators agreed they would consider meeting in Special Session next week to appropriate upwards of $3 million to meet the utility’s immediate shortfall to begin the resupply of propane gas.

“We do have a real crisis. A few hours ago, we switched over to diesel fuel, which puts us in a precarious situation,” Governor Bryan said. “The most immediate need right now is for relief to the Authority.”

Governor Bryan also requested that the lawmakers work alongside his Administration to develop a long-term solution to addressing WAPA’s mounting debt, which includes supporting a base rate increase.

The central government has already been making payments to assist WAPA with its liquidity issues. However, that assistance is not sustainable, Governor Bryan said.

Senators agreed to work with the Administration on a long-term solution, which includes possibly developing legislation to ensure the funds generated from the base rate increase are used for its intended purpose. Senators are also asking that WAPA be fully transparent about how funds from previous rate increases to pay Vitol have been used, and work to improve its billing practices.

WAPA pledged to make a greater effort to resolve its billing discrepancies, which has created a lot of anxiety in the community.

“We agreed to work together to hold WAPA accountable to the people. Many questions have been posed that need to be answered,” Governor Bryan said. “Our intent is to create a solution that is well-thought-out and holds WAPA accountable. Our goal, always, is to have a more reliable and affordable power grid.” He also asked that WAPA to begin implementing measures as a “show of good faith.”

Governor Bryan, senators, and WAPA officials will meet again on Monday to continue discussions.

ENERGY OFFICE REBATE PROGRAM NOTICE FOR USVI BUSINESSES

December 21, 2019

ST. CROIX, USVI – The Virgin Islands Energy Office (VIEO) is notifying all U.S. Virgin Islands businesses that to participate in the Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) Financial Incentive Program, they are required to complete the Vendor Application Request Form.

As per the EERE program requirements, the VIEO will only accept and process rebate applications from local businesses that provide a copy of their business license, IRS W-9 form, products list, and Data Universal Numbering System (D-U-N-S) Number.

To apply for a D-U-N-S Number, visit https://www.dnb.com/duns-number.html. Please submit your information to Ms. Melissa Carter, Program Specialist, at melissa.carter@eo.vi.gov and Ms. Molissa Brin, Administrative Aide, at molissa.brin@eo.vi.gov to become a participating vendor.

This program targets homeowners, renters, and small businesses by assisting them to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint by providing a financial incentive for the purchase of select energy-efficient appliances, building materials and products, Solar Rating & Certification Corporation (ICC-SRCCTM) solar water heater systems, and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approved or listed portable power stations with solar panels. ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that promotes the development and sale of high-quality energy-efficient products that exceed the federal specification for energy use. Visit www.energystar.gov to access their database of certified products.

For more information, call the VIEO St. Croix office at (340) 713-8436 or St. Thomas office at (340) 714-8436.

Freedomcity Times caught up with some of the international Artists that came to St. Croix to paint Murals Sea Walls)

Governor Bryan, Department of Human Services Say “Medical Cliff” Will Be Averted Before Christmas

December 19, 2019

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. and the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services announced that the infamous “Medicaid Cliff” (running out of Medicaid money when the current federal funding was to expire at the end of this year) has been averted.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a proposed budget agreement that contains a funding provision for the Territory in it. All indications are that Senate will pass the budget bill and be signed by President Trump before Friday.

“This agreement, when signed by the president, will protect health coverage for thousands of Virgin Islands residents, and also allow the Government of the Virgin Islands to better provide adequate resources to the territory’s healthcare facilities,” Governor Bryan said.

The bill (Section 202 of H.R 1865) contains a two-year agreement (Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021) to provide additional Medicaid funding for the Territories.

When passed, it is estimated that the USVI will receive approximately $126 million for FY 2020 and another $126 million in FY 2021 to cover the budget shortfall (fiscal cliff).

The federal matching fund rate for Medicaid in the USVI will go up from 55 percent to 83 percent with the Government of the Virgin Islands providing the remaining 17 percent.

“We have worked tirelessly to lobby Congress and the White House on this issue, and I want to thank Senators Mike Crapo, Joe Manchin and Lisa Murkowski for their unwavering support in the U.S. Senate, as well as delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett for her efforts in the House of Representatives,” Governor Bryan said. “We will continue to work together to ensure a permanent end to the disparity in Medicaid funding to the U.S. Virgin Islands and other insular territories.” Governor Bryan added.

Department of Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez, expressed her relief and appreciation for her team, who have been working tirelessly to avoid a loss in funding that would have had a catastrophic impact on 30,000-plus residents of the Territory who rely on Medicaid for their health coverage.

The Department of Human Services is working closely with the Virgin Islands Office of Management and Budget to finalize identifying the 17 percent matching funding the Government of the Virgin Islands.

OMB Director Jenifer O’Neal has indicated that sufficient funds have been budgeted across all categories to match the Medicaid grants for Fiscal Year 2020, at a total of $14 million dollars, which will allow DHS and the Government of the Virgin Islands to meet its federally mandated obligation.

Additional $16.1 Million in Income Tax Refunds Sent Out

DEcember 19, 2019

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—The Virgin Islands Finance Department issued $16.1 million in income tax refunds with disbursements of $9.5 million last week on Thursday, December 12, and an additional $6.6 million on Thursday, December 19.

In Fiscal Year 2020 to date, which began on October 1, 2019, the Bryan/Roach Administration has issued $34.8 million in income tax refunds and a total of $63.8 million since Governor Albert Bryan Jr. and Lieutenant Governor Tregenza A. Roach took office in January.

Those refunds comprise 13,307 processed tax returns since October 1, 2019, and 26,127 processed returns since January.

“These returns signify my Administration’s commitment to stabilizing the government and restoring the public’s trust in it,” Governor Bryan said. “As the Territory’s economy continues its recovery and the Government’s revenue continues to grow, going forward the Government of the Virgin Islands plans to be current on processing income tax refunds and issue refund checks in a timely manner to avoid falling into arrears as has been the case in past Administrations.”

In November, the Bryan/Roach Administration distributed 6,981 income tax refunds totaling $18.8 million.

Some income tax filers may not have received refunds because of a wrong address or Social Security number or because of an audit. Filers who want to check that their information is correct can call the Internal Revenue Bureau at 340-715-1040 on St. Thomas or 340-773-1040 on St. Croix.

EDUCATORS DEMAND ADEQUATE RESOURCES FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

December 17

Teachers’ Unions Will Lead Dec. 18 Rallies Calling on V.I. Government to Fund Our Future

The St. Croix Federation of Teachers Local 1826 and St. Thomas-St. John Federation of Teachers Local 1825 are leading rallies on all three islands Dec. 18 to join with parents and community members to raise public awareness of the ongoing underfunding of public education in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“We will join with others who support our public schools to make our voices heard on what has become a perpetual funding gap that has literally brought education to a standstill in the Territory,” said Rosa Soto-Thomas, president of the St. Croix Federation of Teachers.

Educators across the Virgin Islands are calling on the Territorial government to provide the resources necessary to provide all children with the education they deserve, Soto-Thomas said. “It is long past time for our governor and legislators to begin moving the funding pendulum in the right direction,” she said. Many schools and other facilities need repairs that date to the hurricanes two years ago—or before.

Both local Unions urged all stake holders to turn out for the rallies on Dec. 18. All three will start at 4:30 p.m.

The locations for each rally are: St. Thomas—Emancipation Garden, Legislature Building, Charlotte Amalie. St. Croix—Government House, Christiansted. St. John—Legislature Annex.

 

Scotia Bank USVI & Puerto Rico Converges to Oriental Bank as VI Banking Board Approves Application

December 17, 2019

The VI Banking Board's action came at the Board’s December 16, 2019 meeting with members Lieutenant Governor Roach, Rosalie Javois, Richard Grant, and Finance Commissioner Kirk Callwood all voting in favor of Oriental Bank's Application. The approval is the final step in the multi-step investigatory process conducted by the Board.

Oriental Bank will operate two USVI branch locations to include: Christiansted in the St. Croix District and Altona in the St. Thomas/St. John District. Oriental bank will also maintain a network of 15 automated teller machines (ATM’s) in various locations throughout the Territory, including one on St. John.

OFG Bancorp and Scotiabank announced in June the signing of a definitive agreement for OFG’s subsidiary, Oriental Bank, to acquire Scotiabank’s Puerto Rico operation for $550 million in cash and Scotiabank’s U.S. Virgin Island (USVI) branch operation for a $10 million deposit premium.

The acquisition strengthens Oriental’s position as “the premier retail bank in Puerto Ric & USVI". Oriental will have the second largest market share in Puerto Rico in core deposits, branches, automated and interactive teller machines, mortgage servicing, and insurance brokerage, in addition to becoming the third largest bank in USVI by deposits.

“Bank officials also expressed their commitment to the employees of Scotiabank USVI and informed the Board that they made offers of employment to all current bank employees with an eye towards growing the bank and providing future employment opportunities as evidence of growth develops,” said Lieutenant Governor Roach.

Senior Management from Oriental Bank held two meetings with employees to discuss job offers and the employment benefit package. Similar terms and conditions of the previous employment benefit plan, including health and life insurance and retirement benefits will be maintained.

S&P Global Upgrades USVI’s Rating on GARVEE Bonds

December 16, 2019

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced Friday that S&P Global Ratings raised the Territory’s outlook from “negative” to “stable” and affirmed its “A” rating on the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority’s (VIPFA) outstanding grant anticipation revenue (GARVEE bonds) for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"The outlook revision reflects our assessment of the availability of VIPFA's Transportation Trust Fund revenue given the severe weather-related impacts on the territory in recent years," said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Kevin Archer.

Earlier this month, Governor Bryan and members of his senior staff had a presentation for bondholders and buyers and other investors, marking the Government of the Virgin Islands re-entry into the financial markets.

“This rating from S&P Global is a clear indication of the success of the Bryan/Roach Administration’s pledge to stabilize the Territory’s economy and restore trust in the government,” Governor Bryan said. “While this is a very positive signal from the bond markets, this is just the beginning and my Administration will continue to work toward fiscal stability.”

In September, Moody's Investors Service confirmed as “stable” the U.S. Virgin Islands' Caa3 issuer rating, as well as the ratings on the territory's four liens of matching fund revenue bonds issued through the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority. “The stable outlook reflects recent improvement in the government's liquidity and near-term financial position driven by the receipt of disaster assistance and loans from the US government, a surge in tax revenues associated with local reconstruction activities, and an increase in concession fees from the Limetree refinery facility,” Moody’s said.

The Territory’s GARVEE bonds are backed by the VIPFA’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). Following the immediate impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, the VIPFA projected that TTF revenue would decline in fiscal 2018 and noted the potential for further declines in this revenue or a diversion to other critical needs.

“However, the pledged TTF revenue was not affected as originally forecast, and the additional certainty to the availability of this revenue has stabilized our view of the credit profile,” S&P Global said.

The GARVEE bonds are special, limited obligations of the VIPFA, secured by a first lien on federal highway grant revenue and a fully funded debt service reserve fund. The TTF revenue provides a backup pledge on the bonds, which mitigates any funding disruptions at the federal level.

Governor Bryan Announces Administrative Leave for the Holiday Season

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—In an effort to encourage greater participation in the Crucian Christmas Festival events and to enhance the celebration of the season, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has authorized commissioners and agency heads to grant Administrative Leave to non-essential employees as follows:

St. Croix Only:

Thursday, January 2nd , 2020 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., St. Croix Festival Food, Arts and Craft Fair

Wednesday, January 1 st , 2020 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., St. Croix Festival J’ouvert

Territory-Wide:

Tuesday, December 24th , 2019 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Christmas Eve

Tuesday, December 31st , 2019 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., New Year’s Eve

Friday, January 3 rd , 2020 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., St. Croix Festival Children’s Parade

The Administrative Leave granted above does not apply to essential employees, employees on a regular or rotating shift, or employees on annual or sick leave.

Governor Bryan Orders Flags Flown at Half-Staff In Honor of Catherine Dorothy Lockhart-Elskoe

December 16,2019

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has proclaimed that all Territorial flags in the Territory shall be flown half-staff from sunrise until sunset tomorrow, Tuesday, December 17th, as a mark of respect for the memory of an outstanding educator and culture-bearer, Mrs. Catherine Dorothy Lockhart-Elskoe, who passed away on December 3, 2019.

Mrs. Elskoe co-founded the Elskoe and Associates Carnival Floupe more than 60 years ago and began a teaching career in 1952 that lasted for more than 30 years

. Mrs. Elskoe’s Carnival Floupe brought Virgin Islands culture across the Western Hemisphere, winning awards in Tortola, Antigua, Puerto Rico, New York, Washington, D.C., and Toronto. She also spread the Territory’s rich traditions by helping start the Children’s Carnival Village and Prince and Princess Pageant; assisting the Smithsonian Institution’s 24th Annual Festival of American Folklife, which focused on the Virgin Islands; serving as president of Revive Our Culture; and being instrumental in forming the Emancipation Garden Christmas Challenge of Carols.

Please ensure that any and all U.S. and U.S.V.I. flags being flown are properly raised and lowered to half-staff from sunrise until sunset on Tuesday, December 17, 2019.

Please be reminded that all flags being flown outdoors must be lowered at the end of the day/sunset unless the flagpoles are properly lit at night. Additionally, as set forth in the United States Flag Code, the proper way to lower a flag to half-staff is to fully raise the flag and then lower it to half-staff.

Dorothy Elskoe

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Boat Captain Apprehended at Crown Bay Marina Pleads Guilty to Possessing Cocaine in St. Thomas

December 13, 2019

St. Thomas, USVI –United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert for the District of the Virgin Islands announced that Jehiel Peña-Estrada pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine yesterday in federal court.

According to court documents filed in the case, on the evening of September 16, 2019, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Caribbean Air and Marine Operations (CAMOC) began tracking a vessel travelling from the Maternillo area of Puerto Rico towards St. Thomas. The CPB Air and Marine (AMO) unit from St. Thomas located the vessel near the western portion of St. Thomas and followed it into the Crown Bay Marina. CMO agents detained two persons aboard the vessel, including Jehiel Peña-Estrada, later identified as the boat’s captain. The agents conducted a search of the defendant and located approximately $3,840.00 in cash and two baggies containing a white powdery substance later confirmed to contain approximately 15.7 grams of cocaine, a schedule II, narcotic controlled substance.


Sex Offender Pleads Guilty to Failing to Register

St. Thomas, USVI –United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert for the District of the Virgin Islands announced that Carl N. Decicco, III pled guilty on Monday morning for Failing to Register as a Sex Offender; the day his jury trial was set to begin.

The defendant was previously convicted of first degree sexual contact with a minor under the age of thirteen. As a result of this conviction, defendant was required to register as a sex offender under both Virgin Islands and United States law. From March of 2018 until his arrest in August 2019, defendant failed to appear and update his registration forms as required by law. The defendant was arrested on August 14, 2019 by the U.S. Marshals Service.

The case was investigated by the United States Marshals Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Donna Rainwater. The defendant will be sentenced at a later date.


St. Croix Police Investigating Threat to Educational Complex High School

updated:December 13,2019

ST. CROIX, USVI – Police on St. Croix continue to investigate the alleged threat to St. Croix Educational Complex High School circulating on social media on Thursday night that claimed a student intended to open fire on the campus Friday.

During a Friday afternoon meeting, Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor stated that officers are continuing their investigation into an alleged threat against students that circulated Thursday via text message and on social media. Commissioner Velinor said that while the investigation, so far, has given no indication that the text message is a valid threat, the investigation continues.

"We are looking at every angle to learn the origins of the text message," Velinor said. "Although our investigation, at this point, has not uncovered any viable threat to the safety of students and staff, we continue to take the matter seriously and give it the attention it requires. Teachers and students attend school to learn in a non-threatening environment."

Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin stated, "We are continuing to work closely with the VIPD to ensure that our students and staff remain safe. We are grateful for their support as we address this situation."

About a dozen police officers were stationed at the Educational Complex High School on Friday and several others were placed at St. Croix Central High School. On Monday, the Department of Education and the VIPD will host a series of assemblies with students at Complex High School.

Police urge anyone with information on this matter,to please call 911, the Crime TipLine at (340) 778-4950, or Crime Stoppers USVI at 1(800) 222-8477.

St.Croix Educational Complex


Human Services Announces Early Dismissal of St. Croix Head Start Classes on Friday

December 12, 2019

ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services, Office of Pre-School Services – Head Start, today announced the early dismissal of all St. Croix Head Start centers because of the sudden passing of a Head Start teacher. The centers will be closed on Friday, December 13 to provide staff with support and resources to process and grieve, and grief counselors will be made available to parents and students next week.

Head Start staff in the St. Croix district are asked to report to Way of the Cross Church at 7:30 a.m. on Friday. The Department of Human Services requests the patience of the public by allowing the family, staff and students to grieve in private during this difficult time.

Head Start classes are expected to resume as usual on Monday, December 16.

Three Plead Guilty to Smuggling More Than $1 Million into St. Thomas

December 12, 2019

St. Thomas, USVI –United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert for the District of the Virgin Islands announced that Ashen Tirado-Tapia, Jahniel Fuertes-Robles, and Abdiel Rivera-Medina pleaded guilty yesterday to attempting to smuggle over $1 million into St. Thomas by boat.

According to court documents filed in the case, on September 17, 2019, at approximately 1:26 a.m., the defendants, Ashen Tirado-Tapia, Jahniel Fuertes Robles, and Abdiel Rivera Medina, were onboard a 25’ center console vessel travelling with no navigation lights near the western portion of St. Thomas. A Customs Border Patrol Air and Marine (AMO) coastal interceptor vessel (CIV) from St. Thomas responded in an attempt to contact the vessel. When AMO activated blue lights and sirens to initiate a stop, the boat and its occupants increased their speed, forcing the agents to fire several warning shots, and eventually disabling rounds, into the motor. During the pursuit, agents observed Fuertes-Robles and Rivera-Medina throwing a black duffel bag and GPS overboard. After AMO stopped the vehicle, agents boarded and detained all three individuals. Agents identified defendant Ashen Tirado-Tapia as the boat’s captain. AMO agents returned to where they had seen the defendants throwing something overboard and recovered a GPS unit and the black duffel bag in the water. The duffel bag contained one million one hundred and twenty eight thousand nine hundred and forty dollars ($1,128,940.00) in U.S. Currency.


VIPD Advises No Parking at Drop-Off Area at Lockhart Gardens - 12/10/19

December 11,2019

St. Thomas, USVI – The Virgin Islands Police Department wishes to advise the motoring public there will be no parking in the drop-off area adjacent to K-Mart Lockhart Gardens. Recently, motorists have been using the drop-off area for parking, creating a hazardous situation for traffic in that roadway.

VIPD Advises No Parking at Drop-Off Area at Lockhart Gardens - 12/10/19“No Parking” signs have been erected at that drop-off area by the Department of Public Works. Vehicles found parking in that area will be cited by VIPD officers. The public’s cooperation is appreciated.


In an Effort to Expedite Disaster Recovery in the Virgin Islands FEMA Pledges to Build Closer Ties with the Local Goverment

December 7, 2019

The decision for FEMA to work collaboratively with the VI Government comes at a time that the disaster recovery in the territory  is at a slow pace or almost stand-still. Many Contractors were forced to halt their work because of unpaid invoices. 

Governor Albert Bryan along with VITEMA officials met with FEMA USVI Director Acting Administrator Peter Gaynor and FEMA’s U. S. Virgin Islands Recovery Director Jacquelyn Heyliger to expedite major recovery projects in the Territory tied to health, roads, power, housing, and schools.

The Governor cited issues related to local FEMA staff turnover coupled with being required to revisit decisions on projects that have already been vetted as exacerbating an already slow federal disaster recovery process.

He also emphasized the need to finalize key decisions related to the STEP program so that funding can be released to pay contractors that are owed.

On Friday, Acting Administrator Gaynor said he is willing to work with the Territory to push the projects forward and expedite progress on them.

Director Williams-Octalien indicated that Friday’s meeting with Acting Administrator Gaynor would help spur the Territory’s recovery from the devastating hurricanes in 2017.

“FEMA made commitments and settled on goals to finish school inspections to begin the rebuilding process and to get major road projects finalized so repairs can proceed,” Director Williams-Octalien said after the meeting.

Following the meeting Friday at Government House, Gov. Juan Luis Hospital (JFL) Acting CEO Dyma Williams and JFL Project Manager Yvonne Williams led ODR Director Williams-Octalien, FEMA Acting Administrator Gaynor, and V.I. Recovery Director Heyliger on an extensive tour of the medical facility, the Cardiac Center, and the modular units.

JFL Leadership is finalizing contracts to complete the installation of the furniture and necessary medical equipment to complete the construction. The anticipated opening of the temporary modular hospital is set for the summer of 2020.

While this is a temporary solution, the path to a permanent healthcare facility is being undertaken simultaneously as $10 million has been obligated by FEMA for the design and architectural engineering for the replacement of the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital.


December 4,2019

THE VIRGIN ISLANDS RECEIVES $53.5 MILLION FROM HUD TO RECOVER FROM MAJOR DISASTER

 - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocated over $53.5 million to support the long-term disaster recovery process in the Virgin Islands.

The allocation is supported through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program and will address seriously damaged housing, businesses and infrastructure from disasters that occurred since 2017.

The CDBG-DR Program requires grantees to develop thoughtful recovery plans informed by local residents.

“Today, we take another important step to ensure those hardest-hit by recent disasters can fully recover,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “The grants awarded today will help these local communities continue the recovery process of rebuilding their homes, restoring their businesses and repairing their critical infrastructure.”

CDBG-DR grants support a variety of disaster recovery activities including housing redevelopment and rebuilding, business assistance, economic revitalization, and infrastructure repair. Grantees are required to spend the majority of these recovery funds in “most impacted” areas as identified by HUD. HUD will issue administrative guidelines shortly for use of the funds to address grantees’ long-term recovery needs, particularly in the area of housing recovery.

On October 5, 2018, President Trump signed Public Law 115-254, which provides $1.68 billion in CDBG-DR funding for “disaster relief, long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, and economic revitalization in the most impacted and distressed areas resulting from a major disaster declared in 2018.” HUD allocated all but $205 million of those funds in an announcement on May 14, 2019. This announcement allocates that $205 million between the American Samoa and Northern Marianas as well as providing additional funding for those communities and the other disasters of 2018 through Public Law 116-20.


December 3, 2019

New Resort to be Built on Lavango Cay

The new resort will be called the Lovango Resort and Beach Club, which will be on Lovango Cay which is one of the cays in Pillsbury Sound between Red Hook, St. Thomas, and Cruz Bay, St. John.

When it is completed, which is anticipated to be sometime around December 2021, the Lovango Resort and Beach Club will be a fully self-sustainable resort and club providing its own solar and wind power for its electric needs and a reverse-osmosis plant for its water needs.

“This is a very positive sign to residents, as well as to developers and investors outside the Territory, that the U.S. Virgin Islands is indeed open for business,” Governor Bryan said. “The Bryan/Roach Administration is looking forward to this new resort development and visitor destination – which is being built by the owners of the successful Nantucket Hotel – as the Territory continues to rebuild and expand its Tourism product.”

the resort being built on Lovango Cay is the first newly constructed resort development in the Territory in 30 years.

 

 

Lavang Cay, St. Thomas


November 30, 2019

Man Drowns off Buck Island

St. Thomas, USVI – On Nov. 27 at approximately 10:45 a.m., the Major Crime Unit was notified about a possible drowning in the area of Buck Island. Upon arrival, detectives observed individuals performing CPR to an unresponsive Caucasian male. The male was then transported to the Governor Roy Lester Schneider Regional Hospital and Medical Center for further medical assistance, but died at the hospital.

Investigation revealed that the victim may have drowned while snorkeling. The victim was identified as 62-year-old Matthew Brown of North Carolina.


November 29, 2019

By Freedomcity Times Staff

Woman Reunited with Family After Years Stuck on Island Due to Mental Health Issues

A Texas woman is now back in Texas with her family after becoming homeless on St. Croix for more than 2 years.

According to Police the woman is a licensed beautician in the State of Texas and arrived in the territory months before Hurricane Maria hit. Her mental state took a turn for worst when her resources ran out.

The woman’s name was not disclosed but, police told us that most recently she frequented the Sunny Isle shopping center area, lying on the sidewalks.

However, it was not until four months ago, during a faith-based meeting, a local minister expressed his concern to VIPD about the woman. The pastor stated that he contacted the woman’s daughter in Houston. The VIPD also contacted the woman’s daughter, and later the woman’s sister, who happens to be a member of a local Texas police agency. The woman’s sister began working with VIPD to help repatriate her.

The pastor had stated that his foundation would provide an airline ticket and the VIPD and hospitality accommodations to help with the repatriation if the family would come to retrieve the woman.

After six weeks of VIPD monitoring the activities of the woman in the Sunny Isle Shopping Center, her daughter arrived on St. Croix in an attempt to persuade her mother to accompany her back to Houston.

Social services worked together to ensure that the woman had a place to stay for about a week before her daughter arrived. When her daughter arrived, the woman agreed to be treated with stabilizing medicine days before the flight, and up to the day of the flight. The VIPD’s Victim/Witness Advocate went into full gear and ensured that all obstacles to a smooth departure were removed. The airline ticket was purchased by a non-profit.

“This was a very daunting task to repatriate a person on such short notice with some deficiencies noted in the process,” Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor said. 

November 28, 2019

Former Ranger American Security Employee Sentenced to 21 Months for Stealing $70,000 from Banco Popular ATM

St. Thomas, USVI – Clement Bougouneau, 52, of St. Thomas, was sentenced Thursday, November 21st for bank burglary and larceny, United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced.

District Court Judge Curtis V. Gomez sentenced Bougouneau to 21 months’ imprisonment, followed by a three-year term of supervised release and 300 hours of community service. Bougouneau must also pay $70,000 in restitution.

According to trial testimony, on September 4, 2017, shortly before Hurricane Irma made landfall, Bougouneau used his access and inside knowledge as a twelve-year Ranger American employee to steal $70,000 from the St. John Banco Popular de Puerto Rico ATM. Video tapes presented in the courtroom showed live footage of Bougouneau removing cash from the ATM machine on September 4th. Another video showed Bougouneau’s subsequent interview with law enforcement, where he provided several different explanations of the events surrounding the September 4th heist.

 

November 27, 2019

Coast Guard Medevacs Filipino Crewmember from Marella Explorer 2 Cruise Ship Southeast of Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The crew of a Coast Guard helicopter medevaced a 29-year-old Filipino crewmember from the Marella Explorer 2 cruise ship Tuesday, approximately 50 nautical miles southeast of St. Croix. 

Coast Guard watchstanders received medevac request from the Marella Explorer 2 at 10:47 p.m. Monday, after one of their crewmembers experienced a heart attack and required immediate medical attention ashore.

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan dispatched a crew aboard a MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen to conduct the medevac. The rescue helicopter arrived on scene and the crew deployed their rescue swimmer to assess the patient’s condition. The cruise ship crewmember was hoisted aboard the aircraft and transported to St. Croix, where they were received by awaiting Emergency Medical Services EMS personnel, who transported the patient by ambulance to the Juan F. Luis Hospital.

“All players involved during this case performed admirably, especially during a moonless, low illumination evening on night vision goggles,” said Lt. j.g. Travis Cox, MH-65 Dolphin helicopter co-pilot for the medevac.

“The training of the helicopter crew, along with the outstanding adaptability of Sector San Juan, St. Croix EMS, and the crew of Marella Explorer 2 allowed smooth execution of this medevac.”

The cruise ship was transiting from Bridegetown, Barbados to Tortola, British Virgin Islands, when the incident was reported to the Coast Guard. 

November 24, 2019

St. Croix Man Who Possessed Firearm In Frederiksted School Zone Sentenced To 5 Years Federal Probation

St. Croix, USVI – United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced today that Samuel Melendez, age 43, was sentenced on November 21, 2019 after being convicted of Possession of Firearm in a School Zone.

District Court Chief Judge Wilma A. Lewis sentenced Melendez to 5 years of Federal probation, a $1000 fine and ordered Melendez to pay a special assessment of $100.

According to court documents, on or about October 8, 2018, Samuel Melendez possessed a Jimenez Arms .380 Semi-Automatic pistol at the Frederiksted vegetable market, which is within 1000 feet of St. Patrick’s Elementary School. The firearm was tested and found to be operable. The Defendant did not have a valid license to possess a firearm, and the firearm had moved in and affected interstate commerce

The case was investigated by the Virgin Islands Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa P. Ortiz.

November 22, 2019

MEDICAID FUNDING FOR VIRGIN ISLANDS EXTENDED FOR ONE MORE MONTH

The U.S. Senate has passed a resolution that would extend the Medicaid funding to the Virgin Islands for another 30 days.

H.R. 3055 bill contains critical Medicaid relief for the territory and the Supplemental funding has only been provided on temporary basis; and disaster-related Medicaid relief, in the form of a 100% federal match. While the House has already passed appropriation bills, the Senate appropriations process is far behind. Because of this delay, the House has passed a Continuing Resolution (“CR”) to avoid another government shutdown.

This CR will provide families, businesses, and communities with budget certainty while congress negotiates long-term funding.

Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett released a statement today after final passage of a Continuing Resolution (CR), H.R. 3055.

“I am pleased that, through the hard work of my office, we were able to reach a short-term agreement to extend our disaster-related 100% federal funding for Medicaid, which was scheduled to expire on November 21st, for another month.

“Without the fix in this bill, the rate of federal funds would plummet nearly fifty percentage points to the previous permanent, capped level of 55%. This agreement, now law, will ensure that Virgin Islanders will continue to have access to health care coverage while Congress works toward a long-term agreement.

“Our work is not done, and we must work toward a long-term deal to provide Medicaid funding certainty. I introduced legislation at the beginning of the 116th Congress, H.R. 1354, for equitable, State-like treatment for the Virgin Islands permanently. That is what I will continue to advocate moving forward, Plaskett said.

November 20, 2019

Bryan Re-Establishes Virgin Islands Interagency Council on Homelessness

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – In observance of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, November 16 – 24, 2019, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. hosted an inaugural meeting re-establishing the Virgin Islands Interagency Council on Homelessness (VIICH) at Government House in St. Croix on Tuesday, November 19, 2019.

The Council, led by Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez and Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) Executive Director Daryl Griffith, seeks to establish public/private sector collaboration to prevent and end homelessness in the Virgin Islands through policy and resource development.

The existing Virgin Islands Continuum of Care on Homelessness (CoC) will work collaboratively with VIICH to implement the Territorial Crisis Response System. The CoC provided data that revealed approximately 200 chronically homeless persons in the territory—defined as a homeless person living on the street for 12 consecutive months or has had four episodes of homelessness in three years.

“Re-engaging key stakeholders in the private sector and non profit community is just the first of many important steps in our administration’s efforts to end poverty in the territory,” said Governor Bryan. Homelessness, is a harsh reality for too many, and often effects our community outside of the health and wellbeing of the individual. We have a real opportunity to make progress in reducing our homelessness by reducing poverty and that is what we intend to do.”

In addition to housing needs to support persons at risk of being homeless and chronically homeless persons, varying levels of support services are required to help people remain in stable housing. Services include substance abuse treatment - both residential and outpatient, mental health services-both residential and outpatient, aftercare, recovery support, Care Navigation Services, drop-in centers, day treatment, education and job training opportunities, etc.

The CoC also reported that subpopulations of homeless persons in the territory include adult domestic violence survivors, persons living with HIV/AIDS, the severely mentally ill, and a significant number suffering from chronic substance abuse.

VIHFA Director Griffith informed the Council on the Authority’s access to funds that address the homeless needs in the territory through its annual allocations of the Emergency Solutions Grant and the Community Development Block Grant. The Authority is also in the development stages of the Supportive Housing and Sheltering Program under the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery.

DHS Commissioner Gomez acknowledged her department’s efforts to meet the demands for the effective implementation of the Council goals.

“Right now, DHS works collaboratively and in partnership with federal agencies, and has established public and private non-profits to assist our clients to the best of our ability, noting the limited housing and support services available in our Virgin Islands community. It is essential that the resources be developed so those affected can get the assistance they need,” said Commissioner Gomez.

The goals of the VI Interagency Council on Homelessness are to ensure homelessness is a rare experience, a brief experience, and to work toward an end to homelessness in the territory. Through its re-establishment, members of the Council will work in their respective agencies on three major goals. The Council will first increase the capacity to address homeless issues and strengthen homeless prevention practices. Secondly, it will develop policies and procedures to support the implementation of homeless services and the territorial crisis response system. Lastly, the Council will sustain data collection practices for prevention and assessment purposes.

To kick-off the re-establishment of the Council, workgroups on Housing, Prevention, Data Collection, Access to Mainstream Services, Financial Support, and Media Planning were created to develop plans and systems to address the needs of the homeless population.

Members of the Virgin Islands Interagency Council on Homelessness represent the Office of the Governor; Department of Human Services; VI Housing Finance Authority; Legislature of the Virgin Islands; Department of Health; Department of Labor; Office of the Attorney General; Schneider Regional Medical Center; Juan F. Luis Hospital; Superior Court of the Virgin Islands; VI Police Department; Bureau of Corrections; VI Fire Service; Office of Veterans Affairs; STX & STTJ Chambers of Commerce; VI Continuum of Care Council; University of the Virgin Islands; Frederiksted Health Care, Inc.; St. Thomas East End Medical Center; and the St. Croix Mission Outreach, Inc.

November 18, 2019

VI Gov't Releasing $11 Million in Income Tax Refunds

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has authorized the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue (IRB) to pay out an additional $11 million in Income Tax refunds to tax filers in the territory this week.

The latest disbursement comprises approximately 4,345 refunds and includes some, but not all, returns filed in the tax year 2017.

Over the summer, Bryan ordered the release a $17 Million, which covered mostly 2016 Tax Refunds.

The USVI governor said he continues his commitment to addressing the long-standing obligations of the Virgin Islands Government and to making good on its promise to restore the trust of the people in their government.

November 18th, 2019

Town Clean Ups for Frederiksted, Christiansted

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The St. Croix Administrator’s Office, in collaboration with the VI Waste Management Authority, the Department of Public Works, the VI Fire Service, and the VI Police Department, has scheduled cleanups in the towns of Frederiksted and Christiansted respectively.

On Thursday, November 21st, between 8 a.m. and noon, crews will pick up trash and pressure wash the sidewalk on Strand Street in Frederiksted, from the Athalie Petersen Public Library to the Eliza James McBean Clock Tower at Buddhoe Park. The non-profit organization ‘Our Town Frederiksted,’ will participate in cleanup activities in that area.

On Friday, November 22nd, between 8 a.m. and noon, crews will pick up trash and pressure wash the sidewalks from Bassin Triangle to Times Square in Christiansted. The Christiansted Restaurant and Retail Association will participate in cleanup activities in Christiansted.

.According to St. Croix Administrator Sammuel Sanes, no street closures are planned during these activities. However, the motoring public is asked to avoid parking along the streets identified for cleanup until crews have completed the work.

“This effort is part of Governor Bryan’s ‘VI Pride – Keeping Our Islands Clean’ initiative to spruce up our historic town areas,” said Administrator Sammuel Sanes. “Our goal is to make our town an attractive place for people to work, live, play, and visit.”

Administrator Sanes added that more town cleanup events would be announced later in the year.

Administrator Sanes and his office in collaboration with stakeholders from the government, the private sector, and the resident-community have completed more than a dozen different cleanup efforts to include land clearing, appliance, and abandoned car removal and dumpsite cleanups.

In October, the Office of the St. Thomas-Water Island Administrator Avery Lewis completed cleanup of the Savan community in Charlotte Amalie, helping residents dispose of bulk items.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. submitted a supplemental budget to the Virgin Islands Legislature in September, which included $600 thousand to the Department of Public Works for street maintenance and cleaning crews to conduct routine cleanup of towns.

November 17,2019

Governor Bryan Describes Clear Path Toward Creating Sustainable Workforce in the USVI

—During two daylong Workforce Development Summits that Governor Albert Bryan Jr. initiated in both districts, he laid out a clear path for how he plans to stabilize the Territory’s economy and create a sustainable and thriving workforce that will benefit all Virgin Islanders.

“This summit will highlight how workforce development has to evolve from a problem-focused approach, from simply addressing issues of low-skilled workers or the need for more employees in a particular industry,” V.I. Labor Commissioner Gary Molloy said to open the first summit meeting on Tuesday on St. Thomas.

“The short version is, businesses want good people, talented people. Education wants to connect them together,” Commissioner Molloy said. “However, our labor market data is showing that there is a language barrier between people, education and the world of work.” Both meetings were well-attended by a variety of business leaders and members of the nonprofit sector from both districts.

Governor Bryan’s approach to a sustainable and robust workforce – which he calls “Cradle to Careers” – is a plan that he said he has developed over the last 12 years. To that end, he announced that he is asking for the V.I. Legislature’s assistance to rename the Virgin Islands Department of Labor to the Department of Workforce Development and Security.

“When you get a job, your whole future changes. When you get that job you’ve always been looking for, it just changes everything,” the Governor said. “You have income coming into the family. You get a sense of purpose. You’re able to create yourself, buy a home, get a new car, move to a different economic level. You connect. You’re a part of society. You belong to something.”

“Developing a workforce is one of the most important things that we want to do,” he said. The Governor’s plan to develop a strident and lasting workforce comprises a number of elements, including:

• Bolstering the education system through investing in early childhood education; investing in university programs aligned with the Territory’s growth sectors and creating charter programs for gifted students.

• Reducing single female households by 30 percent and increasing household income to 10 percent above the national average.

• Strengthening access infrastructure through low-cost wireless broadband, maximizing public computer centers’ transitioning students to eLearning and providing every student with internet access and a device to use it.

“Workforce development is the biggest part of economic development,” Governor Bryan said.

“For years we’ve been building things and thinking that’s economic development. Unless you move people from one economic sector into another economic sector, you’re not really doing economic development.”

Some of the immediate steps the Governor proposes to increase the workforce economy include:

 

• Building a financial sector with a UVI School of Business. • Taking advantage of the RT Park, which houses Google 2020 and has some of the best programmers available.

• Creating an active cargo shipping hub to give rise to new businesses on St. Croix. • Expanding refinery operations.

• Upgrading transshipment capabilities for containers. • Diversifying the tourism base to 20 percent Asian visitors, 30 percent European visitors and 50 percent American visitors.

November 12th, 2019

GOVERNOR BRYAN TO HOST FAMILY HEALTH EXPO ON NOVEMBER 15TH

Various government agencies, healthcare professionals, and organizations will participate in the Family Health and Wellness Expo this weekend, on November 15th.

It is anticipated that the Expo will provide residents with biometric screenings; referrals, light treatment options health counseling, exercise and wellness tips, food demonstrations & tastings; information, products, and services related to specific areas of health and wellness.

Governor Albert Bryan says the goal of the expo is to increase awareness about how residents can improve their health and wellness by using a three-pronged approach:

* Physically – Encourage the balance of physical activity, nutrition, and mental well-being.

• Intellectually – Engage individuals in activities that expand their knowledge and skills and increase self-awareness

• Socially – Increase social consciousness and foster a sense of community throughout the territory.

Governor Bryan said that healthy residents can change the course of the Territory.

“Health and Wellness is not something we can fix overnight,” Governor Bryan said. “However, if we individually change how we think about health and wellness, especially how we eat and live, we will change our lives and our community.”

The event is set for Friday, November 15th, 2019 from noon to 5pm at the DC Canegata Ball Park on St. Croix.

NOVEMBER 9,2019

TERRITORY TO HONOR LOCAL RETIRED VETERANS ON VETERANS DAY

Every year, Veterans Day falls on November 11th. This year the holiday happens to be on the second Monday of the month.

First recognized as Armistice Day in 1919, Veterans Day marks the date when Germany and the allies signed a 1918 agreement to cease World War I hostilities. The fighting ceased on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

While the holiday was celebrated on the fourth Monday of October for much of the 1970s, President Gerald Ford signed a bill that returned the observance to Nov. 11 beginning in 1978.

The U.S. Virgin Islands has been commemorating the event for the past 40 years with military parades and this year, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. is encouraging the Virgin Islands community to show appreciation for local veterans by attending the parade scheduled on their respective island.

On St. John, the parade will be on Sunday, November 10th, starting at 1:30 pm in Cruz Bay. St.Thomas parade will be Monday, November 11th, at 3 pm on Veterans Drive and St. Croix’s Parade will be on Monday morning at 9 am, in Frederiksted.

“The theme of this year’s events is ‘Service,’ in recognition of the sacrifices veterans and their families have made, and continue to make, to protect democracy and the freedoms we continue to hold dear,” Governor Bryan said.

“During this Veterans Day weekend, it’s our time to come together and say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ “Our appreciation goes beyond their service in the military,” the Governor said.

“We are also grateful for the example they set after military service has ended by volunteering their time to work with our youth and other community programs and by championing issues that affect their fellow servicemen and servicewomen.”

This year’s Veterans Day honorees are Retired Major General Cleave McBean of St. Thomas; Retired Command Sergeant Major Charles David of St. Croix; and Retired Staff Sergeant Elvis Lewis of St. John.

“They have done their duty and now it is up to us to make sure our veterans always get the care they need,” Governor Bryan said.

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NOVEMBER 8, 2019

Governor Bryan Gives Finance Department Sole Responsibility for Government Check Verification Systems

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS—Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has signed an executive order giving the V.I. Finance Department comprehensive responsibility for all aspects of the use of check verification systems used by all agencies and departments of the Government of the Virgin Islands.

The order cites an increase in “Non-Sufficient Funds” (NSF) and tasks the Finance Department with the comprehensive fiscal management and implementation of check verification systems within the Central Government.

In Fiscal Year 2018, the amount of dishonored checks totaled $4.4 million and to date in Fiscal Year 2019, the total amount of dishonored checks is $3 million.

Finance Commissioner Kirk Callwood Sr. said he is grateful for the Governor’s support in tightening the Government of the Virgin Islands’ fiscal controls and it is another step toward the Bryan/Roach Administration’s promise to stabilize and restore trust in the government.

“I would like to thank Governor Bryan for this Executive Order,” Commissioner Callwood said. “This is a great example of the administration’s push to facilitate the widespread use of technology as an enabler to mitigating risk and managing costs.“

The Governor’s executive order also gives the Finance Department the ability to order any agency to use check verification services, making it the sole agency that can procure check verification systems for agencies and departments. Any agency ordered by the Finance Department to use a check verification system cannot refuse to use such a system without the written consent of Finance Commissioner Kirk Callwood Sr. or Governor Albert Bryan Jr.

Also, according to the order, no other agencies are authorized or enabled to procure such services. Any agency that was ordered to use a check verification system and receives NSF checks that qualify for but were not inputted into the system can lose the value of the NSF checks in future agency monetary releases or appropriations.

The order, which Acting Governor Tregenza A. Roach and Acting Lieutenant Governor Novelle Francis Jr. signed on October 29, went into effect immediately.

November 8th, 2019

WAPA UPDATES THE PUBLIC ON THE RECENT PAYMENT PROCESSOR CYBERATTACK INCIDENT

The VI Water & Power Authority released a statement today on the progress made so far to rectify the issue with Central Square Technologies, its payment processing contractor.

The authority said its working closely with Central Square Technologies to fully assess the effect of a recent cyberattack has provided determined the range when the actual attacks occurred.

Acording to WAPA, the payment processor application became compromised from August 30, 2019 and remained vulnerable through October 25, 2019. WAPA received its initial notification from a customer about a card with suspicious activity after making an online payment on October 18, 2019. On that date, a forensic audit on the system was initiated. The audit, performed by a third party, at that time revealed no signs of malware or compromise. However, after additional reports of compromised cards were received by WAPA, the cyberattack was confirmed on October 25 by Central Square Technologies.

Even as the assessment of the attack continues, WAPA will immediately begin notifying customers by both mailed correspondence and email that the card used to make payment to WAPA may be compromised. The notification will also include information about credit monitoring services to be provided by Central Square Technologies, and a hotline the company will establish to field questions and comments from customers with compromised credit or debit cards.

WAPA continues to urge customers to closely monitor credit card statements for potential fraudulent activity, and to report suspicious or unauthorized charges to the bank or credit card issuer immediately.

November 6th, 2019

GOVERNOR BRYAN SCHEDULES FIRST WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT SUMMIT

CHARLOTTE AMALIE - U.S.V.I Governor Albert Bryan announced this week that he will be hosting a Workforce Development Summit this month and the event will be held annually.

Bryan said he has made workforce development a priority for his administration and is committed to addressing & reshaping the workforce deficits in the territory. The Governor also emphasized on seeing every training dollar in the Virgin Islands to translate into sustainable employment and nationally recognized credentials for the job seeker as well as a skilled workforce for employers.

 The Office of the Governor has invited partners in the U.S. Office of Apprenticeship, subject matter experts and work-based learning practitioners to inform on the mechanics and operation of successful models. Panel speakers will highlight examples of work-based learning initiatives that currently are underway in the Virgin Islands and share opportunities for further development.

The Workforce Development Summit is part of National Apprenticeship Week, which is celebrated Nov. 11 – 17, and The first event will take place on November 13, at the WICO facility on St. Thomas. On St. Croix, the Summit will take place on November 14 at the Divi Carina Bay Hotel.


ST.CROIX COMMUNITY MOURNS THE DEATH OF VAUGHN BENJAMIN, INTERNATIONAL REGGAE ARTIST AND LEAD SINGER OF THE MIDNITE BAND. BENJAMIN TUESDAY,NOVEMBER 5, 2019 OF A SUDDEN ILLNESS. HE WAS 50


November 4th,2019

IT’S TERRIFYING, BUT DANGEREOUS SNAKES SPOTTED LOOSE IN FREDERIKSTED

By FreedomCity Times Staff

Many residents on St. Croix, particularly on the West end have reportedly been seeing snakes in their neighborhoods, causing a great deal of fear and panic. We have also seen people taking videos and posting them on Social Media.

In one video, a man was seen holding and wrapping a snake around his neck near home in Williams Delight.

Fear of snakes kept our ancestors alive. In a world without doors, windows, or shovels, learning how to spot and avoid a deadly snake was a pretty important survival skill. That's why our fear of snakes is sometimes so irrational. If you're going to save yourself from a venomous attacker, it's a really good idea to run from every snake, rather than wasting precious time trying to decide which ones you actually need to be afraid of.

Today, living on an island, many homes leave doors and windows wide open, while playing outside or hanging out in the balcony. The scary part of this is the likelihood of snakes sneaking into the bedroom.

Just how did the snakes get to St. Croix?

We are told that people who had pet snakes let the animals loose in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, before sailing out on FEMA’s Mercy ship. It may have been 2 or 3, but snakes reproduce at a much faster rate than most amphibians.

Amphibians like frogs, for the most part, begin their life in water, Snakes, on the other hand, start their life as Eggs either inside their mother's body or externally. Their ability to swim & stay underwater for some time does not make them Amphibians in the Zoological terms.

Snakes in Australia are so common that people can't get away with just checking under restaurant tables and making sure all are clear before using the toilet. According to Newsweek, an Australian mom was packing her child's lunch in 2018 when she found a hatchling eastern brown snake curled up inside it. Aww, but it's just a baby, right? Yes, it's a baby, but baby brown snakes are just as dangerous as adults, except smaller, which means they can pretty easily get into your lunchbox, your shoe, or the pair of pants you left lying on the bathroom floor.

What to do when you encounter a snake

Frankly, we do not think the animal shelters on the island are trained in catching snakes, so we don’t recommend you contact them.

When hiking in the bush it is important that you do not pick up, poke or provoke any snake that you come across, even if it appears to be dead- some snakes such as the Rinkhals play dead and can strike if disturbed. If you discover a snake, do not approach it closely. If you step on a snake or are very close to a Puff adder then move away quickly.

If the snake is only about a meter away, freeze at first and see the snake's reaction - it will likely look for an escape route. If it is cornered, back away slowly. If you move slowly you are not perceived as a threat and the snake is less likely to strike.

What to do if you are bitten by a snake:

• Drink plenty of fluid unless you have trouble swallowing

• Apply a sterile dressing to the wound

*Never try and suck the venom out with your mouth

• Do not squeeze the bite

• Do not apply a tight bandage •

Transport the person to hospital as soon as possible as these snakes have potent venom and anti-venom will be needed.

 

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November 1st,2019

LEFT BEHIND OR SENT TO PARADISE ON A ONE WAY TICKET: WHY FREDERIKSTED HAS A HOMELESSNESS CRISIS

By Freedomcity Times Staff

FREDERIKSTED – St. Croix has been home to some of the wealthiest Americans for several years, and a minimum wage that is now higher than most states, yet despite the rise in prosperity dozens of residents are sleeping in cars, shop entrances, abandoned buildings, and alleyways.

The emerging crisis has created a milestone that Crucians won’t be proud of. Frederiksted has the highest homelessness rate in all of the Virgin Islands towns and a top ten among U.S. Cities.

It’s a curious problem afflicting many towns where some residents get pushed onto the streets as they can no longer afford the rocketing rents in a flourishing economy - let alone purchase a house as the price of property has soared.

In the Virgin Islands, Chronic Homelessness, which is people struggling with a disabling condition such as a serious mental illness, substance use disorder, or physical disability is the #1 reason for being homeless in Frederiksted.

ONE WAY TICKET TO PARADISE?

Cities have been offering homeless people free bus or plane tickets to relocate elsewhere for at least three decades. In recent years, homeless relocation programs have become more common, sprouting up in new cities across the country and costing the public millions of dollars.

Although this move is mostly common on the mainland US, the islands are viewed as a laid- back culture, where illegal drugs and alcohol are cheap and can be purchased in corners and attract those far away on the U.S. mainland, that are looking for a careless attitude for their drinking and smoking habits.

But until now, there has never been a systematic, nationwide assessment of the consequences. Where are these people being moved to? What impact are these programs having on the cities that send and the cities that receive them? And what happens to these homeless people after they reach their destination?

Freedomcity Times spoke with one homeless man who said officials from his home town in the State of Alabama put him on a plane to St. Croix three weeks before Hurricane Maria.

“They told me not to come back,” the man said.

SHELTERS ARE FULL

Homelessness is at its worst in Frederiksted, which has also experienced the most damage from Hurricane Maria & severe housing crunch, with prices jumping 50 percent in the past 2 years.

We know of one shelter (Ten Thousand Helpers) in the town that caters to homeless men and they are full to capacity.

Earlier this year, The U.S. Department of Urban Development (HUD), awarded over $100,000.00 to the territory the help end homelessness.

CYBER ATTACK ON WAPA'S WEBSITE COMPROMISES CUSTOMERS DEBIT & CREDIT CARDS

October 30, 2019

Many Customers who utilize The Virgin Islands Water & Power Authority's online payment method to pay their utility bill may have been victims of the Cyberattack to hit the authority.

The investigation into the matter started after a regular online customer reported that charges on her card was fraudulent.

WAPA confirms that the attack happened through its third party vendor Central Square Technologies, who has processed payments for the utility company for the past 10 years. A meeting has been scheduled with the processing company to get more clarity on the matter.

Meanwhile, Executive Director Lawrence J. Kupler said on Tuesday night that as a precaution, WAPA provisioned new servers to avoid reoccurrence.

”WAPA is working with Central Square Technologies to determine the number of customers affected, and the dates that the compromise occurred. Payments made by two other options, self-service kiosks, and pay-by-phone were not affected," Kupler said.

He encouraged customers to monitor credit card statements for potentially fraudulent activity and any suspicious charges should be reported to your bank or credit card provider immediately.

St. Thomas Man Charged with Unlicensed Fiream Possession

20-year-old Ta’riq Springette, who was a passenger in a vehicle near Havensight, St. Thomas was arrested on Sunday during a traffic stop.

Police say Ta’riq Springette admitted the Tan in color 9mm, Glock and a 30 (thirty) round magazine containing 30 rounds found in the vehicle were his and he didn't have a license to carry it.

Springette was charged with Possession of an Unlicensed Firearm and Possession of Ammunition and was placed under arrest, transported to Richard Callwood Command where he was booked and processed.

Unable to post bail of $25,000.00, he was turned over to the Bureau of Corrections pending his Advise of Rights Hearing.

Legislation introduced to expand Medicare Part D low-income subsidies to U.S. territories

October 27th, 2019

Bipartisan bill would allow residents of Puerto Rico, other U.S. territories to become eligible for the subsidy program beginning in plan year 2021

SAN JUAN — Reps. Donna Shalala (FL-27), Darren Soto (FL-9), Jenniffer González-Colon (PR), and Stephanie Murphy (FL-7) introduced Wednesday the Medicare Low-Income Subsidy Expansion for Territories Act of 2019, bipartisan legislation that would allow residents of U.S. territories to become eligible for the Medicare Part D low-income subsidy (LIS) program beginning in plan year 2021.

The LIS program (also called Extra Help) assists low-income individuals by providing subsidies to fully or partially cover their out-of-pocket costs under the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. Program subsidies help reduce or completely cover the out-of-pocket cost of Medicare Part D premiums, deductibles and coinsurance, while also eliminating the prescription drug coverage gap and waiving the penalty for late enrollment into Medicare Part D.

Residents of U.S territories are currently barred from receiving LIS under Part D. In place of the low-income subsidy, territorial residents receive a fixed amount of funding to provide Medicaid-covered prescription drugs for all low-income beneficiaries. This funding can be substantially lower than the amount of federal financial support that low-income beneficiaries would receive if territorial residents were eligible for the LIS program.

“For generations, the residents of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories have been treated like second-class citizens,” Shalala said in a joint release. “Though these territories face many inequities, poverty–particularly among seniors–may be their most daunting challenge to overcome. This bill is an important step towards alleviating poverty among seniors in Puerto Rico and other territories with aging populations, and it is also a meaningful stride towards better and more equitable treatment for American citizens who have for too long been ignored.”

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