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Governor Bryan Signs Historic Legislation That Will Refinance Rum Cover-Over Debt to Stabilize GERS

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — In the first official function at Government House on St. Thomas since the building was destroyed by the 2017 hurricanes, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. signed historic legislation that allows the Government of the Virgin Islands to refinance the Rum Cover-Over Matching Fund bonds and use the savings from better interest rates to stabilize the Government Employees’ Retirement System (GERS) for at least 30 years

Bill No. 34-0188, now Act No. 8540, was the Bryan-Roach Administration’s fourth attempt to gain consensus on legislation to restore solvency to the GERS. With the 34th Legislature’s approval of the current proposal, the Administration can actualize its plan to sell the bonds and fund the GERS system.

“When we first introduced this concept to create a special purpose vehicle corporation to refinance our rum bonds 18 months ago, we did it with the people in mind. We did it to protect the pension benefits of our almost 9,000 government retirees and with the goal of protecting the pensions of the more than 8,000 other active employees who are relying on the Government Employees Retirement System to be able to achieve a decent quality of life in retirement,” Governor Bryan said before signing the measure into law.

“Today is about them: The retirees who are the breadwinners in their respective households and who rely on their pension benefits to provide for their families; the retirees confronting inflation and the rising cost of goods, and whose pension benefits are their only source of income,” Governor Bryan said. “We did it to protect the pensions of the active, vested employees so they too can realize the promise of benefit funds when they retire. And this assurance also enhances our ability to retain and attract new employees to government employment. Today is about them, and the promises made to them that our Administration is ensuring the Government of the Virgin Islands keeps.”

Governor Bryan first submitted a bill in August 2020 to authorize the Securitization of the Matching Fund Receipts to enable the reduction of the Government of the Virgin Islands bonded debt, the proceeds of which would be applied to a reduction of the Government Employees Retirement System unfunded liability.

Although that bill and two subsequent revisions failed to make it to completion, it led to the Senate’s formation of a Senate Subcommittee on the GERS, ultimately resulting in Act No. 8540, which is a collaborative effort between the Governor’s Executive Team, the Senate Subcommittee, the GERS board and the GERS actuary Segal and Company.

On January 31, 2022, the 34th Legislature passed Bill No. 34-0188 unanimously, 14-0-1, and Governor Bryan’s Executive Team immediately began working to secure the Rum Cover-Over Matching Fund bonds and offer them to investors on the bond market.

During Tuesday’s bill-signing ceremony, Governor Bryan had effusive praise for his Executive Team and praised them for their persistence and determination on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands to rescue the failing retirement system.

“Something this complex cannot be achieved without a strong and competent team of subject matter experts. I need to give thanks to the wizards behind the magic,” the Governor said, before noting that the chief architect of the GERS Solvency Program David Paul of Fiscal Strategies Group.

The Governor also thanked the Executive Team who worked on the legislation since its inception: Public Finance Authority Executive Director Nathan Simmonds; Lorelei Farrington, Cherrie Wallace-Cole and Attorney Kye Walker of the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority; Finance Commissioner Bosede Bruce and OMB Director Jenifer O’Neal; and Attorneys David Bornn, Michele Baker and Rachel Haverkorn from the Office of Legal Counsel at Government House.

The Governor also thanked Attorneys Karol Denniston, Pedro Hernandez, Dynda Thomas and Pedro Miranda of Squire Patton Boggs.

“Someone had to take the concept out of David Paul’s head and reduce it to a bill. That was done by the team from Squire Patton Boggs. The core legislation that we have been tweaking over the last several months was drafted by them,” Governor Bryan said.

Vi Department of Education: V.I. Board of Education Has Not Odered St. Thomas-St. John High School Walkthrough Graduations Changed to In-Person Ceremonies

May 20, 2021.

ST. THOMAS, USVI – Ivanna Eudora Kean (IEKHS) and Charlotte Amalie (CAHS) high schools will retain plans to host hybrid-walkthrough graduation ceremonies on May 20 and 21, respectively, contrary to a misleading and error-filled article published on May 19 by the Virgin Islands Consortium, which suggested that an interim order issued by the Virgin Islands Board of Education (Board) required the Virgin Islands Department of Education to modify graduation plans for the two St. Thomas high schools; the Board of Education has issued no such order.

A subsequent article published on May 20 by the Virgin Islands Consortium incorrectly reported that the Department of Education would “continue with walk-thru graduations in St. Thomas, in line with Governor Bryan’s override power.” The Board of Education has not ordered the Department of Education to change any plans for the Territory’s 2021 high school graduations; therefore, no “override power” from the Bryan Administration is at play.

Graduations for the territory’s public high schools include an opening segment with prerecorded speeches and musical performances, an in-person diploma presentation for graduates, and a prerecorded closing with students’ formal cap and gown photos—the three parts amount to a hybrid graduation. While the 2021 graduations have always included in-person components, none of the territory’s public high schools will host traditional, sit-down gatherings this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like the St. Croix drive-through graduations on May 18 and 19, the St. Thomas-St. John public high school graduations, which will both be conducted in a walkthrough format, include in-person presentations of diplomas to graduates as they cross the stage and greet dignitaries, as well as in-person attendance by parents/guardians.

A central point in a May 19 interim order issued by the Board of Education following a May 18 emergency hearing on high school graduations in the St. Thomas-St. John District with student council presidents from the two high schools, and officials from the Departments of Education and Health, states that “the Department of Education officials and school administrators shall meet today, May 19, 2021, with Appellants and the Department of Health to determine multiple options that comply with the Center for Disease Control guidelines, including those for in-person graduation ceremonies, for the Charlotte Amalie High School and the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School.”

Department of Education, health, and school and district officials met with student body presidents from the two high schools and their adult representatives on the evening of May 19 to discuss in-person graduation options. All parties amicably agreed that the planned, hybrid-walkthrough graduations satisfy health guidelines and the in-person experience

The Department of Health supports the Department of Education’s plans for drive-through and walkthrough ceremonies as the safest options for public high school graduations in 2021, affirming that these pose the least risk of exposure to COVID-19. A sit-down ceremony poses the highest risk of exposure.

 

Governor Bryan’s Statement on Moody’s Assessment of GERS

April 20, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. issued a statement about Moody’s Investors Service’s assessment of the Territory’s financial outlook on the bond market and the solvency of the Government Employees’ Retirement System (GERS) following the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling earlier this month regarding the past due contributions owed by the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI).

In that ruling, the Third Circuit said the GVI is not liable for about $43 million in interest and fees for past due contributions to the retirement system.

“This is not a loss for the GERS or the V.I. by any means. It underscores the urgency with which the executive and legislative branches need to work together to address and put forward a comprehensive solution to this problem,” Governor Bryan said. “In the judgement, the court clearly defines that it is the duty of the Legislature to address the funding needed, and by working collectively I believe we can get solve this issue on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands.

“As evidence of our commitment, the Government of the Virgin Islands has paid millions to the GERS over the years, none of which they applied to the balance they claim is due. It is time to take another serious look at refinancing our bond debt to achieve lower rates, which will allow us to put more money into the system,” Governor Bryan said.

Moody’s said in the opinion it issued on Monday, April 19, the looming threat of the GERS going bankrupt likely would result in debt default and restructuring for the Government of the Virgin Islands.

“The ruling is credit positive for the USVI, because it will provide a more than $40 million reprieve from court- ordered pension contributions and thus help the financially stressed territory's near-term ability to continue providing government services. However, it does little to alter the looming insolvency of GERS within the next several years,” the Moody’s assessment said. “The USVI almost certainly cannot afford to pay pensions directly to retirees if GERS depletes its assets, and likely cannot politically cut benefits while paying debt service in full to bondholders, meaning a GERS insolvency is highly likely to drive a debt default and restructuring.”

The Moody’s assessment said that regardless of whether the GVI paid the amount overturned by the Third Circuit, the retirement system is likely to fail in 2024.

“Assuming that in addition to its statutory contribution, the USVI pays the amount upheld by the appeals court in full, we still project that the GERS will run out of assets in fiscal 2024 without an extra infusion of cash or cut to benefits,” Moody’s reported. “To this end, the appeals court in its opinion said that GERS requires ‘possibly billions more’ to avoid insolvency, and the system's most recent actuarial valuation recommends that the Board of Trustees prepare in advance for applying benefit cuts to retirees once the systems assets are exhausted.

“We estimate that GERS would have to cut benefit outflows to retirees by around 50% once its assets are depleted if its only sources of income are the USVI's statutory contributions and active member contributions,” Moody’s reported. “A benefit cut of any significant magnitude is unlikely to occur, in our view, without a broader restructuring of the USVI's other debts and obligations to bondholders.”

 

Governor Bryan Calls for Second Territorial Day of Prayer

.April 11, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr., on Tuesday, April 13, will hold the second annual Territorial Day of Prayer service for protection against COVID-19 and for the well-being of all Virgin Islanders as the territory continues to be impacted by the corona virus pandemic.

The Day of Prayer service is scheduled for 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday and will feature faith leaders of various houses of worship in the USVI. The event will air Live on Government Access Channel 27 and on the Government House’s Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/GovernmentHouseUSVI . Lt. Governor Tregenza A. Roach, Esq., and First Lady Yolanda Bryan will also participate in the event.

“It is never lost on me how important our faith and belief systems are to giving us strength to meet the challenges and crises we face every day. There is nothing more powerful than our collective prayer for fortitude and healing,” Governor Bryan said. “While the Bryan-Roach Administration has done well in terms of testing and vaccinating individuals, the fight is far from over. We must go beyond our initial goal of 50,000 vaccinations to get our lives back in a meaningful way, and it is going to take all of us doing our civic duty to get there.”

In February, Governor Bryan set a goal of 50,000 individuals vaccinated by July 2021 to begin reaching herd immunity. Last week, the number of individuals vaccinated passed the 30,000 mark. The territory is now on the final stretch of its initial goal for 50,000 people vaccinated by July 2021. Additionally, the VI Department of Health has tested more than 91,000 individuals for the virus since testing began in April 2020. To date, 26 residents have lost their lives due to COVID-19.

As part of the Territorial Day of Prayer, on Wednesday, April 14, Lt. Governor Tregenza A. Roach, Esq., will host faith leaders and the Department of Health’s leadership team for an hour of fellowship and conversation about COVID-19, the vaccines now available to the territory and the Bryan-Roach Administration’s efforts to reach community immunity.

 

Bipartisan Team of Governors Sign-on to Governor Bryan’s Letter Asking CDC to Expedite Reopening of U.S. Cruise Ports

April 6, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – A bipartisan team of governors from five states and Puerto Rico have signed-on to a letter that Governor Albert Bryan Jr. sent to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the chairwoman of President Biden’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, asking the CDC to issue updated regulations to expedite the reopening of cruise ports in the United States.

The Governors who co-signed Governor Bryan’s letter are Governor Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico; Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia; Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland; Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana; Governor David Ige of Hawaii; and Governor Mike Dunleavy of Alaska.

Governor Bryan’s letter asks Director Walensky to have the CDC issue updated guidance that will help cruise lines and ports fully resume operations and open up a dialogue about how the states, territories and federal government can work collaboratively to make it possible for the cruise industry to generate tourism-related dollars in the affected jurisdictions.

“We know the cruise industry is poised to make a comeback. Given the central role of tourism to our local and regional economies, this would be a welcome development,” Governor Bryan wrote. “This of course depends on when our ports and the cruise lines can and will be able to reopen and under what conditions.”

In his letter, Governor Bryan cites the 2018 Economic Impact Analysis, which highlights the impact that the cruise industry continues to have on the global economy.

 

Governor Bryan Eases Seating-Capacity Restrictions For Houses of Worship

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — In advance of the upcoming Easter holidays, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has eased restrictions for churches, which now can have gatherings of up to 200 people or 50 percent of their capacity, whichever is less, Government House Communications Director Richard Motta Jr. announced during the Government House Weekly Press Briefing on Monday.

The new limit goes into effect immediately and will remain in effect moving forward.

“Just to be clear, you cannot seat 200 if your capacity cannot accommodate 200 people,” Director Motta said.

Director Motta reminded churches that parishioners still must wear a mask and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“We have an especially long Easter holiday weekend, beginning with Transfer Day on Wednesday and ending with Easter Monday. Government Offices will be closed during this time, and Governor Bryan encourages all Virgin Islanders to enjoy the long holiday weekend but do so safely and in accordance with our local health guidelines,” Director Motta said. “Please do enjoy the beach but remember that they will be open at 6 a.m. and closed at 5 p.m. from this Wednesday until Monday. All other health guidelines apply while on the beach, including mass gathering restrictions and social distancing.”

Falsifying COVID Test Results

Attorney Eric Chancellor of the Virgin Islands Attorney General’s Criminal Division also appeared during Monday’s press briefing to warn residents against uploading falsified COVID test results to the Department of Tourism’s travel portal.

Attorney Chancellor said that moving forward, the Office of the Attorney General will prosecute anyone caught doing so.

“There is simply no excuse for this behavior, and make no mistake about it, submitting false documents to the Government of the Virgin Islands is criminal behavior. Falsifying test results for submission to the Government of the Virgin Islands is criminal behavior,” Attorney Chancellor said. “In accordance with this policy announcement, the Attorney General has directed that henceforth, anyone submitting forged documents or false test results through the travel-screening portal will be prosecuted.”

According to Attorney Chancellor, two Virgin Islands statutes are applicable: • Title 14, Section 843 deals with false and fraudulent statements upon the government and violators face a fine of up to $500, imprisonment of up to two years or both. • Title 14, Section 795 relates to the recording of forged instruments, and violators face a fine of up to $1,000, up to five years imprisonment or both.

Emergency Rental Assistance Program

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program to assist families who have fallen behind on rent payments as a result of the pandemic opened to residents on Monday, March 29.

To qualify, residents must:

• Owe at least one month rent or utility payment or anticipate a need for future rental assistance • Prove they have suffered loss of income because of COVID-19 • Have one or more household members at risk of homelessness because of nonpayment of rent • Have an annual income at or below 80% of area median income.

 

Governor Bryans signs bill which puts a halt on any permits for new gas stations in the Territory,

March 26, 2021.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Thursday signed two bills into law, approving a five- year moratorium on issuing all permits for the construction and operation of gas stations and a bill appropriating money to buy land for the reconstruction of Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.

“May the executive and legislative branches continue to collaborate in order to continue to pass enforceable laws protecting the Territory of the Virgin Islands,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter to Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory.

Regarding Bill No. 34-0010, which puts a halt on any permits for new gas stations in the Territory, the Governor said that although he signed it, he requested that the Legislature amend it for projects already underway.

“I would respectfully request the Legislature to provide a waiver from this moratorium for any pending and current construction permits for gas stations to allow for continued construction and licensure,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter.

The Governor also approved Bill No. 34-0017, which appropriates $400,000 from the Community Facilities Trust Account, as well as the balance of any unexpended funds from Act 7697, which was passed by the 30th Legislature as a funding source for the Territory’s medical facilities.

The appropriations would be used to purchase Plot No. 7 in Estate Diamond Ruby to be used for the reconstruction and expansion of Luis Hospital.

Governor Bryan Testifies About “Building Back Better” Before U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources

March 24, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Wednesday testified before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources and told federal lawmakers that Virgin Islanders are well-versed in resilience and building back; however, the territories lack the financial support from the federal government that would allow them to stay abreast of the constant challenges they face.

“The funds that we got through the American Rescue Plan will go a long way toward helping our Territory recover, as well as for all of the territories,” Governor Bryan said. “But a major continuing problem is our financial inability to maintain our roadways, our power plants and all the infrastructure, to train our workforce and to constantly adapt to these ever-changing threats.

“Securing our infrastructure under the ‘Build Back Better’ plan will be crucial for the territories in order for us to be able to build back,” the Governor said. “We hope that the Biden Administration continues to support us and help us develop comprehensive plans that address resilience.”

Governor Bryan told the committee members that the biggest help and the biggest hinderance to the territories having the ability to be on par with the mainland states has been the federal government.

“Restrictions between FEMA and HUD have created impossible hurdles to rebuilding. They simply have to understand that we cannot wait 10 years to build back,” Governor Bryan said. “A quick fix to help us with our financial obligations would be for this body to back the full debt of the territories. This would give us the ability to borrow money at the 1 percent that is being issued today and would free up millions of dollars of capital that we now pay in interest.”

The Governor talked about the Territory’s efforts in the face of COVID-19 to return to the budding and rising economy in place when the pandemic hit.

He cited the Marine sector, such as the USVI’s ability to attract and maintain charter vessels and dredging the harbors in Charlotte Amalie and St. Croix, as a specific economic sector that could benefit greatly by the “Build Back Better” plan.

“We remain optimistic that the Administration and Congress will support our territorial leadership. Not just the Virgin Islands, but all of us,” Governor Bryan said. “The ‘Build Back Better’ plan represents an opportunity to liberate the Virgin Islands – and all of our territories – from fiscal distress and build a sustainable local economy that can withstand periodic natural and economic disaster.

“It is also an opportunity to invest in our people,” the Governor said. “As we recently celebrated our 100th anniversary of being an American territory, you can ensure that we are prepared for the next 100 years, strengthening our infrastructure and eliminating federal policies that undermine our ability to attract investment that will give us a fighting chance to make our second century as Americans better than the first.”

Governor Bryan to Testify Before U.S. House Committee On How President’s “Build Back Better” Program can Help USVI

March 22, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. will testify virtually before the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 24.

Governor Bryan, as well as the Governors of all the U.S. territories, will appear via Zoom to discuss President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan and how the federal initiative can specifically provide support to the U.S. Virgin Islands to achieve the program’s goals.

The Congressional hearing will look at the U.S. Territories’ economic growth, which has contracted or remained flat for decades, in part because these jurisdictions have experienced a series of catastrophic natural disasters. Additionally, territorial governments historically have not prioritized maintenance-planning and budgeting, life cycle costing analysis and training, which has resulted in the usefulness of power plants, roads, ports, water and sewer systems and public buildings declining prematurely.

Governor Bryan will be testifying about the critical need for the U.S. Territories to secure funding under the “Build Back Better” plan to address long-ignored needs, as the recovery from the 2017 hurricanes remains underway.

The House committee hearing begins at 10 a.m. and will be live on Facebook.com/GovernmentHouseUSVI; NaturalResources.House.gov and the House Natural Resources Committee YouTube channel.

Governor Bryan Hosts Royal Caribbean Group For the Second USVI Community Business Forum

March 19, 2021.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The Office of the Governor will host Royal Caribbean Group for the second session of the USVI Community Business Forum series that will focus on helping VI businesses adapt and innovate their services for the return of cruise ships under a COVID environment.

The USVI Community Business Forum II is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., on Wednesday March 24, 2021, and will be held virtually via Zoom and can be viewed Live on Facebook.com/GovernmentHouseUSVI. To register for the forum, visit www.vi.gov/cbf or for more information call 340-774-0001.

The CBF series is an initiative of the Office of the Governor, the V.I. Economic Development Authority and the V.I. Department of Tourism, in partnership with Royal Caribbean Group to provide business owners with the information they need to be ready for potential cruise ship calls in 2021.

Virgin Islands business owners, entrepreneurs and anyone interested in starting a business are encouraged to attend and be a part of the conversation. The session includes a Question-and-Answer segment following the presentation.

Governor Bryan Prohibits Camping At Territory's Beaches Ahead of Easter Weekend

March 17, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Tuesday announced the prohibition of Easter Camping at the Territory's beaches this year following the territory's existing public health state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Bryan has prohibited camping on all beaches beginning Monday, March 22 through Saturday, April 10.

"While I realize that this is a time-honored tradition for Virgin Islanders, we can't afford as a community to take a step backward in our battle against the spread of COVID-19 and especially not while we are vaccinating our population and working toward achieving the herd immunity that will let us put this pandemic behind us," Governor Bryan said.

"Our traditions, like Easter Camping and our Carnival and festivals, will return, and I want everyone in the Territory to stay safe and COVID-free so we all will be able to enjoy them once again," the Governor said. "We have to stay on task with shutting down this virus. I want to thank our residents in advance for their continued cooperation and for making this sacrifice to protect the lives of our friends, families, and loved ones."

The Governor cited the plights of cities inundated by spring breakers ignoring masking guidelines and social distancing requirements, resulting in hundreds of arrests in cities such as Miami Beach.

"It would be a tragedy if what was meant to be a time of family and goodwill turned into a super-spreader event resulting in the infection or unfortunate death of even a single Virgin Islander," Governor Bryan said.

Under the current public health State of Emergency, beachgoers are required to vacate the territory's beaches by 5 pm on holidays and weekends to help curtail the occurrence of mass gatherings and other activities that violate the public health guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Virgin Islands Department of Health.

The current guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virgin Islands Department of Health call for residents to wear masks in public, stay 6 feet apart, and not gather in large groups.

 

VIHA’S CENTRAL OFFICES ON ST. CROIX CLOSED DUE TO POTENTIAL COVID-19 EXPOSURE

March 16, 2021

The Virgin Islands Housing Authority’s (VIHA’s) Central Offices in the St. Croix District, was forced to  close after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus.

The offices will reopen on Thursday, March 18, 2021 which will allow for other staff testing and the sanitizing of the office.

JFL HONORS MRS. DELYSIA IONE DUNCAN AND DONATION OF OXYGEN GENERATOR FROM NBA CHAMPION TIM DUNCAN

March 12, 2021

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, March 12, 2021 – The Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center (“JFL”) celebrates the life and contributions of Mrs. Delysia Ione Duncan by naming “The Delysia Ione Duncan Hall” in her honor, and expresses deep gratitude to Tim Duncan for his generous donation of a medical-grade oxygen generator.

Through her many years of service leading with integrity and purpose, Mrs. Duncan has left an indelible imprint on the hearts and souls of all those who knew her. “We honor Delysia Ione Duncan, who, during her time at JFL, served as a dedicated mid-wife. Naming this hall for Mrs. Duncan will undoubtedly make her impact known to all who walk it. We thank her for being a team member here with us and it is such a pleasure to pay tribute to her and her memory,” said Interim CEO Dyma B. Williams, BSN, RN, CPHRM, MJ.

JFL thanks Mr. Tim Duncan for gifting JFL the first acute care hospital based oxygen generator to land on the shores of the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to Interim CEO Dyma B. Williams, “We greatly appreciate Tim Duncan’s donation as it helps us to assure that very patient that enters the doors of the new JFL North has life sustaining oxygen made right here on JFL property. Without a doubt, he is a healthcare hero and Virgin Islander committed to the betterment of the Virgin Islands as we Rebuild Today for a Healthier Tomorrow.”

 

Governor Bryan Issues Statement On Passage of American Rescue Plan

March 10, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. On Wednesday praised the U.S. Congress for passing President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, which provides $1.9 trillion of federal pandemic aid, and said it will help accelerate and bolster the current efforts the Bryan-Roach Administration has in place to continue the recovery of the Territory’s reeling economy.

“The American Rescue Plan will expedite our efforts to restore financial stability for all Virgin Islanders – businesses, families, individuals and organizations. What was a ray of hope is now a light at the end of the tunnel, and President Biden and Congress are to be commended for taking action,” Governor Bryan said. “Among the provisions of the American Rescue Plan are $1,400 individual stimulus payments, tax credits for children and low-income families, funds to reinforce our local businesses and help put people back to work, relief for renters and landlords, continued support for those who are unemployed and an extension of health insurance subsidies and nutrition programs, such as SNAP.

“The fact that the USVI has come through this major legislative effort with substantial areas of funding in the bill is proof that our lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., with Senators and Congressmen and Delegate Stacey Plaskett by our teams were well-worth our time and effort over the last year,” the Governor said. “We are also thankful for the reimbursable and equal treatment for the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and the expansion of SNAP. The Bryan-Roach Administration is committed to reducing poverty and COVID economic impacts in the Territory.

“Across the board, this comprehensive legislation is much-needed support for our local efforts, and it will help the Bryan-Roach Administration pull the Territory out of this economic catastrophe much quicker than we had anticipated,” Governor Bryan said. “I pledge to continue taking every opportunity to continue the USVI’s economic recovery while the Department of Health’s continued excellence carries us through the public health crisis. I also want to thank all Virgin Islanders for their continued support as my Administration steers us safely toward the ‘New Normal.’”

Virgin Islanders Can Now Schedule Vaccinations Online Through the Department of Health Website

March 8, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During Monday’s Government House weekly press briefing, Virgin Islands Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion announced that residents can fill out the required paperwork and schedule an appointment to get vaccinated at the Department of Health website at www.covid19usvi.com/vaccine.

All Virgin islanders ages 16 or older are now eligible to receive the vaccine, and resident without access to the Internet can still book appointments at one of the Community Vaccination Centers by calling the VITEMA hotline at 340-777-VACS (8227).

“We have accommodations on-site on both islands for seniors and persons with disabilities. This includes parking and a short walk to the designated entry area,” Government House Communications Director Richard Motta Jr. said during the weekly briefing. “We also have options for ASL interpreting and a special waiting area for you before and after your vacation is completed.”

There is a Community Vaccination Center in each district:

• At the University of the Virgin Islands Great Hall on St. Croix. • At UVI’s Sports and Fitness Center on St. Thomas.

After the first week of the Community Vaccination centers taking appointments, almost 25,000 persons have been vaccinated in the Territory as of March 7:

• 1 st dose – 16,929 administered • 2 nd dose – 7,959 administered • Total – 24,888 doses administered.

Commissioner Encarnacion also reminded residents who get vaccinated to download the free V-Safe app, which uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized health check-ins. The information gathered through the app also provides vital data to the CDC to track the progress of vaccinations in the United States and in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Anyone who thinks they may have contracted COVID-19 can call the Epidemiology hotline at 340-712-6299 or 340-776-1519. For more information, visit covid19usvi.com.

For information about the COVID-19 vaccines, call the VITEMA hotline Mondays-Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 340-777-VACS (8227).

Eased restrictions

Monday also marked the start of some of the restrictions Governor Albert Bryan Jr. put in place as part of the State of Emergency he declared to mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic.

The easement of those restrictions that began Monday are:

• Restaurants can seat up to 75 percent of their allowable capacity, and they can seat parties larger than six persons. • Taxis can transport more than the 50 percent restriction if all of the passengers are of the same party or group. • Beaches will remain open until 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

All masking and social distancing remain in effect.

“All other guidelines remain in effect; however, as we move forward with out vaccination strategy and toward herd immunity, Governor Bryan will consider easing those as well,” Director Motta said.

 

USVI Department of Human Services to Resume In-Person Services for SNAP and MAP Offices in St. Croix Mars Hill Location Monday, March 8, 2021

March 6, 2021.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services announced today that they will re-open the Mars Hill SNAP and MAP offices to staff and resume in-person services on Monday, March 8, 2021. The SNAP Issuance Unit will remain closed until further notice. However, if you are pending a new or replacement EBT Card, please contact the SNAP Office at (340) 772-7100 ext. 7018 or 7017 for assistance.

The Department of Human Services shut the facility down last week in order to activate its COVID-19 mitigation protocols to address a confirmed positive COVID-19 case among staff.

Clients may contact the St. Croix SNAP and MAP offices at: MAP • (340)772-7100 • stxmap@dhs.vi.gov SNAP • (340) 772-7100 • certoffice.stx@dhs.vi.gov

Governor Bryan Eases Some COVID-19 Restrictions For Restaurants, Taxicabs and Beaches

March 1, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During Monday’s Government House weekly press briefing, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced that, beginning March 8, some COVID-19 restrictions are being adjusted in an effort to support the local business community.

Beginning next week, beaches can remain open until 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays, and taxis can transport more than the 50 percent capacity limit if all the passengers are part of the same family or group.

In addition, restaurants can now seat up to 75 percent of their approved seating capacity, and they can seat more than six people at the same table if they are all in the same party.

Masking requirements and social distancing remain in effect.

“All other guidelines remain in effect, Governor Bryan said. “However, as we move forward with out vaccination strategy and toward herd immunity, we will also consider easing those as well.

Weekend shootings

Governor Bryan also addressed the violence that occurred on St. Croix during the weekend that left 13 people injured by gunfire and five people dead.

“There are few words to express the outrage and hurt our community feels this morning because of the callous and reckless actions of those who chose to reign terror on our streets over the weekend,” the Governor said. “But if we are honest, this weekend is emblematic of a culture that we, as a community, have for more than 30 years allowed to snowball into this avalanche of violence.

The Governor said that the community enables the violence by expressing shock and addressing anger at everyone except for those people who pull the triggers.

“When we make their heinous acts less about what they have done and more about our police and first-responders, we absolve them of responsibility and embolden them to inflict more pain in the community,” Governor Bryan said. “I resolve to remember a time in our Virgin Islands when the village meant more than me and mine, and when it was ‘all ah we.’ I have faith that we will get there again. We just have to do our part and take ownership of our place in this village.”

The Governor urged any residents who have any information about the shootings to call the Virgin Islands Police Department at 340-778-4950 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8487).

Community Vaccination Centers

As of Monday, March 1, the Territory entered Phase 3 of its vaccination strategy with the opening of the Community Vaccination Centers in each district. Access to the COVID-19 is open to Virgin Islanders who are 16 and older.

“This is our latest step toward our goal of having half the population, or 50,000 people, vaccinated by July 1,” Governor Bryan said. “I know there are many in our community who, in the words of Vice President Kamala Harris, have a ‘righteous skepticism’ toward these and other vaccines, but it is the best shot you can take to protect yourself and the best shot we have as a community toward normalcy.”

On St. Thomas, the Community Vaccination Center is at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center, and on St. Croix, is at UVI’s Great Hall. The Centers are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and residents can schedule an appointment by calling the VITEMA vaccination hotline at 340-777-VACS (8227)

Schools reopening

The Virgin Islands Department of Education is phasing on the reopening of public schools, starting in the St. Croix District for students in pre-K, first grade, special education and Career and Technical education students, beginning Tuesday, March 2.

 

Reward Offered for Missing St. Croix Man

February 25, 2021

ST. CROIX, USVI - The VIPD St. Croix District continues to ask for the community’s assistance in locating 80-year-old Michael “Dodor” Emmanuel, who was reported missing on February 19. Emmanuel is a Black male, standing around 5 feet 5 inches in height, and weighs approximately 150 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes, with a dark brown complexion.

Emmanuel was last seen on February 19 at around 6:45 a.m. at his residence in Canebrake Apartments, wearing a brown striped pajama pants, white vest, and no shoes. We have unconfirmed reports that Emmanuel may have been seen getting into a vehicle near Canebrake Apartments on the day he was reported missing. We also have a reported sighting in the Strawberry area, wearing a blue shirt and brown pajama pants.

A $1,000 reward for information leading to his whereabouts has been offered.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Michael Emmanuel is urged to call 911, the Wilbur Francis Command at (340) 778-2211, or the Crime TipLine at (340) 778-4950.

Senator Gittens praises collective effort to reopen La Reine Fish Market

february 24, 2021

ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – One of the longstanding goals of Senator Kenneth L. Gittens was realized Wednesday with the official reopening of the renovated La Reine Fish Market on St. Croix.

“This is a great day for our local fishing community and all the residents of St. Croix,” Senator Gittens said. “We now have a safe and sanitary place for our fishermen and women to sell and clean their catch and we have a beautiful new facility in place of what was a true eyesore. I thank God for allowing me to be here to see this project through to completion.”

Senator Gittens, who has made the renovation of the fish market a priority, also thanked the Department of Planning & Natural Resources, the fishing community and all the others that worked to bring the La Reine Fish Market back to life

Senator Gittens was one of four primary sponsors of Act 7627, which reprogrammed funds to repair the fish market in 2014. Unfortunately, the renovation was not prioritized.

“Two years ago, one of my first official acts in the 33rd Legislature was to call upon DPNR to determine what resources were required to reopen this once vibrant facility,” Senator Gittens said during Wednesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony. “We were able to ascertain that funds were still available to restore the fish market and I urged that the work begin as soon as possible. At that point, the fish market was abandoned and deteriorating, and further battered by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Littered with trash, it was a true eyesore and a health hazard right in the heart of our community.”

Senator Gittens called Wednesday’s ribbon cutting ceremony a proud moment for the Territory, marking a significant step in supporting the fishing industry and maintaining longstanding culinary cultural traditions.

“Improving opportunities in fishing and farming remains an important focus of my legislative agenda as Chairman of the Committee on Economic Development & Agriculture and I have called a hearing to assess the state of these industries on March 22,” he said

The La Reine Fish Market, which had been virtually abandoned for more than a decade, now offers 18 individual stalls and 12 state-of-the-art cleaning stations available for monthly rent to licensed commercial fishermen. The new market also will have an ice machine, restrooms, parking, and a 20,000-gallon holding tank for fish waste. Those interested in renting a stall can contact DPNR’s Division of Environmental Enforcement at 340-773-5774.

Senator Gittens urged the community to visit the new and improved fish market.

“It’s beautiful - I only wish it were a bit closer to the sea. The fish market rehabilitation truly represents a step in the right direction for St. Croix. Let us honor the efforts made by ensuring the market is properly maintained. We must remain committed to keeping the La Reine Fish Market clean and functional,” Senator Gittens concluded

USVI Department of Human Services Temporarily Closes Mars Hill Head Start Location and Pauses Food Distribution

February 23, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services announced today that they are immediately closing the Mars Hill Head Start location to staff (students have not been attending in person) and pausing food distribution until next Thursday, March 4, 2021.

The Department of Human Services has activated its COVID-19 mitigation protocols to address confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff, to safely resume food distribution and operations next week.

Head Start team members 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, quarantine and tested accordingly.

80-year -old Frederiksted Resident Reported Missing on St. Croix

February 21, 2021

Authorities on St. Croix are requesting the community's help in finding 80-year-old Michael Emmanuel, who was last seen on February 19 at 6.45 in the morning in the Cane Brake Apartments in Frederiksted. 

He has a dark brown complexion, 5'5" tall, weighs 150 pounds, black hair and brown eyes.

The elderly man was wearing brown striped pajama pants and a white vest with no shoes. He also possibly has Alzheimer’s.

If seen or found, please contact authorities at 340-778-2211or 911

 

 

VITEMA Clarifies 911 Spanish-Speaking Capabilities And Recruitment Efforts

February 18, 2021

US VIRGIN ISLANDS – Following the February 17th Committee on Homeland Security, Justice, Public Safety and Veteran’s Affairs hearing, VITEMA seeks to clarify to the public the Agency’s 911 capabilities relevant to serving the Territory’s Spanish-speaking residents.

VITEMA currently staffs thirty-seven (37) 911 Call Operators. Operators language capabilities include English and Patois.

The Agency is actively working to recruit 911 Operators, with an emphasis on individuals fluent in Spanish. In the interim, VITEMA has partnered with the Virgin Islands Police Department and the Virgin Islands Fire Service to provide translation support within minutes of a call.

VITEMA expects that Language Line Solutions Inc., a system that provides real-time translation and transmission services of over 50 languages and dialects, will be up and running by March 18.

“911 operators are the community’s first connection to critical resources during an emergency situation. Our goal is to inclusively serve our community by facilitating the seamless deployment of vital emergency services. The agency has had challenges recruiting qualified bilingual operators,” VITEMA Director Daryl Jaschen said. “It is my hope that the attention brought to our need for Spanish speakers will ignite an interest in members of our community to take up this role. We look forward to expanding our team in service of our Latin community.”

Spanish-speaking individuals interested in this opportunity should contact VITEMA at 340-442-2244, 340-773-2244 or 340-776-2244. For further details, applicants may visit www.vitema.vi.gov.

Governor Bryan Names Former Senator Allison DeGazon To Head Division of Economic Research

February 12, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has named former Senator Allison DeGazon to take the position of Director of the Division of Economic Research effective Monday, February 15, 2021.

The Division of Economic Research provides reliable and quality statistics to enhance the social and economic development of U.S. Virgin Islands through statistical analysis and reports in support of public-sector and private-sector decision-making. The Division, formerly known as the Bureau of Economic Research, was under the Office of Management and Budget before becoming a division under the Office of the Governor.

“It is imperative that we build a unit in the Virgin Islands that generates, complies, analyzes and distributes data to support our public and private sector,” Dr. DeGazon said. “I intend to lead the charge in ensuring that our local data is accurate and accessible so that our policymakers can drive effective public policy and spur economic growth.”

Before being elected as a member of the 33rd Legislature where she served as Chairwoman of the Senate’s Economic Development, Regulations and Agriculture Committee, Dr. DeGazon served as Assistant Director at the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency from 2015-2017 and as Territorial Director of Unemployment Insurance at the Virgin islands Labor Department from 2012-2015. She holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of the Virgin Islands and a Ph.D in Creative Leadership, Innovation and Change from the University of the Virgin Islands and Buffalo State College.

In addition, Dr. DeGazon is a member of a number of economic research groups in the Caribbean, United States and Canada, and she is a representative of the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Agri-Economic Society. Dr. DeGazon also is the owner of Cruzan Organix Farm, Inc. and Business Strategies, Inc.

 

FEMA Obligates $2.9M for Repairs to Turnbull Library on St. Thomas

February 10, 2021

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands- The Office of Disaster Recovery announces the obligation of $2,902,538 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Public Assistance Program (FEMA) to the Department of Planning and Natural Resources to complete repairs to the Charles W. Turnbull Regional Library on St. Thomas.

The three-story, 40,000 square foot facility was impacted by strong winds and wind-driven rain and debris when Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the Territory. Rain intrusion on the second floor caused by damage to the roof and windows compromised interior components and systems.

Now that the project is obligated, architecture and engineering work will commence in preparation to put the project out to bid.

Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Jean P. Oriol expressed his gratitude to FEMA and Office of Disaster Recovery for their support. "We welcome this assistance in restoring our libraries. Public libraries are a critical resource in the development of our students and the Bryan/Roach administration is committed to getting all of our libraries reopened."

The funds will be used to restore the facility to its pre-disaster condition by installing new roofing materials, ceiling tiles, interior walls, light fixtures, solar panels and guttering. Public archives and other collections will receive document remediation services, fully restoring a number of archival materials, books, photographs and negatives, framed artwork, documents, paintings and microfiche.

"A library is a key component of a healthy and successful community," remarked FEMA Acting Recovery Director John Covell. "The materials and resources available at public libraries play an important role in giving people of all ages a chance to enhance their lives and in turn their community." Mr. Covell continued, "FEMA is very pleased to have the opportunity to fund the restoration of this very important facility for the citizens of the USVI."

The largest of the public libraries on St. Thomas, named in honor of former Governor Charles Wesley Turnbull, features a conference room, auditorium, computer lab, and various collections, including public archives and records.

"The Office of Disaster Recovery thanks FEMA for this award," said Office of Disaster Recovery Director Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien. "This is the second library to receive funding from FEMA's Public Assistance Program. The Territory is expecting $5.8M to repair public libraries in both districts.”

$76.5M in Payments on its way to EHRVI/STEP Contractors

February 9th, 2021

U.S. Virgin Islands- The Office of Disaster Recovery announces that $76.5M in payments for direct construction activities is being released to prime contractors for the Emergency Home Repair of the Virgin Islands (EHRVI)/Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) Program.

FEMA halted contractor payments in June 2020 after citing cost reasonableness concerns about the EHRVI/STEP program administered by the VI Housing Finance Authority. In a meeting in October 2020 with Governor Bryan and former FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, FEMA committed to making a determination by December 31 on the reasonableness of construction-related costs.

FEMA made good on that commitment and issued its decision that $233M of hard construction costs were determined eligible. A total of $165M was previously paid and $76.5M is now approved for release. The Territory is working with FEMA on a final determination of the remaining $18M.

“Today’s announcement is welcomed news for many of our local subcontractors who participated in the emergency home repair program and a testament to the close coordination of our administration with our federal partners and their commitment to our recovery and rebuilding efforts,” Governor Bryan said.

Funds will be released to the VI Housing Finance Authority, who will, in turn, pay prime contractors AECOM and APTIM.

“The VIHFA is committed to ensuring that both local and stateside contractors are made whole for the tremendous amount of work done by the STEP program,” said Executive Director Daryl Griffith. “The VIHFA’s Cost Reasonableness Report shared with FEMA showed the detail accounting system that was done by the VIHFA, Witt O’Brien and prime contractors AECOM and APTIM was thorough and indeed reasonable. This is a great milestone and we look forward to completely closing out this program.”

The EHRVI/STEP program provided temporary repairs to 6, 560 homes and permanent roofing repairs to 1,648 homes.

“This accomplishment required a significant amount of coordination,” said Office of Disaster Recovery Director Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien. “The Office of Disaster Recovery thanks FEMA, Delegate Stacey Plaskett and Ernst & Young, for their assistance and efforts in securing these funds for the Territory. We will continue to work with local and federal stakeholders to obtain the final determinations necessary to make these long-awaited payments to contractors.”

FEMA has committed to making a determination on soft costs, which includes contractor costs associated with housing, travel, oversight and administration, by March 31, 2021. The Territory has submitted the requested documentation and pertinent project information to FEMA to conduct their review and create a final accounting based on actual, eligible costs incurred in the performance of the projects.

Governor Bryan Announces Distribution Of 10,000 Stimulus Checks to Residents

February 8, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During the Government House weekly press briefing on Monday, February 8, 2021, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said that 10,000 stimulus checks for a total of $9.5 million have been printed and put in the mail to go out to Virgin Islanders.

Governor Bryan also announced that the Bureau of Internal Revenue has established a hotline – 340-714-9325 – for residents who have questions about their stimulus and tax refund payments.

“We anticipate issuing more payments, so if you are an eligible tax filer and have not filed your 2019 income tax return or 2019 form 1040, you need do so now or before the March 15 cutoff,” Governor Bryan said. “As a reminder again for those Social Security recipients who do not have a filing requirement, there is no need to file a return. The Bureau will utilize the information, which was received from the IRS and used to determine eligibility for the first stimulus payments, to issue your second stimulus payment.”

The Governor also spoke about the success of the COVID-19 vaccination hotline at 340-777-VACS (8227) that the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) has established for people who are eligible to make an appointment with a provider to get vaccinated. The hotline is open from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and it is staffed by English and Spanish speakers. Residents who call outside of the hours of operation should leave their name and a call-back number.

“Since we have deployed the hotline last week, we received 600 requests for COVID-19 vaccine appointments – 540 by phone and 60 through the website,” Governor Bryan said. “Roughly, 41 percent of the calls received are from seniors age 65 or older.”

Pop-Up testing sites

This week, pop-up testing sites will be at the following locations:

• St. Thomas Home Depot on Tuesday, February 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. • Canegata Rec Center on St. Croix on Tuesdays – February 9, 16 and 23 – from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. • The V.I. Port Authority Gravel Yard on St. John on Wednesday, February 10, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. • The Fort Christian parking lot on St. Thomas on Thursday, February 11, from 1 to 3 p.m. • Canegata Rec Center on St. Croix on Thursdays – February 11,18 and 25 – from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Tai Hunte-Ceasar said that since December 16 Health has administered 12,094 vaccinations with 2,967 second doses.

“The Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine was submitted for an Emergency Use Authorization on February 6 and is being reviewed by the FDA for this approval,” Dr. Hunte-Ceasar said. “Once approved, we will have three available vaccines, which will allow us to provide vaccine access to all eligible residents. We are preparing to meet the requirement to vaccinate 50,000 individuals in the Territory by July 1, per the guidance set forth by Governor Bryan.”

Dr. Hunte-Ceasar also said that vaccine tourism is a major concern across the country.

“We are committed to ensuring that 100 percent of residents are offered the opportunity to be vaccinated and continue to work with vaccinating providers to discourage trips to the Territory solely for the purpose of immunization,” she said.

Anyone who thinks they may have contracted COVID-19 can call the Epidemiology hotline at 340-712-6299 or 340-776-1519. For more information, visit covid19usvi.com.

Governor Bryan, Lt. Governor Roach, Governor’s Cabinet Attend Special Service on Sunday at St. Patrick Church in Frederiksted

February 1, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr., Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach and the Governor’s Cabinet attended a special “Service of Thanksgiving” on Sunday evening at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Frederiksted.

The service to express thanks and ask for blessings for the year ahead was conducted by Father Anthony Abraham of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church in Cruz Bay, St. John. First Lady Yolanda Bryan gave the two readings, and Deacon Michael Jackson read the Gospel.

Governor Bryan Resubmits Legislation to Legislature To Appropriate $1.7 Million for Ann Abramson Pier Construction

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Wednesday resubmitted proposed legislation asking the Legislature to appropriate $1.75 million to repair the Ann E. Abramson Marine Facility and construct a new service pier at the site in Frederiksted.

Governor Bryan had submitted the proposed legislation to the 33rd Legislature in November 2020, but it was not acted upon. He is asking the 34th Legislature to approve his request for $1,750,000 to be appropriated from the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund, which was established to fund capital improvement projects in the St. Croix District.

“Due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic and the No-Sail Order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all cruise ship activities in the world and in the U.S. Virgin Islands ceased in March 2020. This inactivity in the cruise ship industry has severely affected the Virgin Islands Port Authority and diminished its ability to finance the necessary repairs to the severely deteriorated tender landing at the Ann E. Abramson Marine Facility,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter to Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory.

 

Governor Bryan Requests Waiver from President Biden From Local Match for FEMA Hurricane Funding

January 26, 2021.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Monday sent a letter to President Joseph Biden requesting that the president waive the local match provision regarding the remaining federal funding from the 2017 hurricanes.

In his request, Governor Bryan said freeing up CDBG-Disaster (Community Development Block Grant-Disaster) funding set aside to pay the territory’s local match requirements is sorely needed as the USVI continues to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which struck while the territory was still in the recovery of the economy and infrastructure devastation from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Congress appropriated more than $8 billion in disaster aid to fund the territory’s disaster recovery after hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. Much of that funding was appropriated through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program.

Currently, the Virgin Islands Government has to pay a 10 percent local match on FEMA public assistance funding. In his letter, the governor explained the unavailability of hundreds of millions in local funds is impeding the territory’s ability to access an estimated $4 billion to $5 billion in funding for approved recovery projects.

The Government of the Virgin Islands was approved to utilize CDBG-Disaster funding to satisfy the 10 percent cost-share. However, using those funds to match cost-share requirements would take away more than $600 million, or approximately one-third, of the CDBG-Disaster funding appropriated to the territory from other approved critical disaster-recovery projects.

The Government of the Virgin Islands was approved to utilize CDBG-Disaster funding to satisfy the 10 percent cost-share. However, using those funds to match cost-share requirements would take away more than $600 million, or approximately one-third, of the CDBG-Disaster funding appropriated to the territory from other approved critical disaster-recovery projects.

Freeing up those CDBG-Disaster funds to redirect them into hurricane-related economic revitalization programs would immediately benefit local businesses that are now suffering even more from the hurricanes and the pandemic.

“The resulting infusion of money and development into the Territory would materially improve our difficult financial situation and the health, safety and welfare of our people and permit us to immediately redirect the HUD funds to more than a half-billion dollars of other desperately needed economic revitalization, infrastructure resilience, and affordable housing projects,” Governor Bryan wrote. “And because the dollars that would be released by the cost-share waiver have already been appropriated, this massive economic stimulus would have a federal budgetary cost of zero.”

Among his actions last week, President Biden signed an executive order that removed the requirement for local matching monies associated with National Guard resources to combat the pandemic and instructing FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to fully fund National Guard activity and FEMA public assistance without a local funding obligation.

Veterans Opportunity for COVID-19 Vaccination

JANUARY 25, 2021 .

The VA Caribbean Healthcare System will be offering COVID-19 vaccinations to the following groups of Veterans:

• Veterans eligible for and receiving care at VA who are 55 years of age or older • Veterans that are Hemodialysis, Chemotherapy, Spinal Cord patients • Veterans that are Organ Transplant patients • Homeless Veterans • Veterans that are First Responders (EMT, Police, Nurses, Firefighters, etc.)

Vaccinations will be offered for Veterans both in the St. Croix district and the St. Thomas/St. John district. St. Croix Veterans will have the first opportunity on January 27th and 28th 2021. Coordination is currently being finalized for the St. Thomas/St. John district and will be published once completed.

On St. Croix the location will be at the Old Nissan Building, Christiansted, JAN 27 9:00 am – 1:00 pm & JAN 28 9:00 am – 12:00 pm.

Priority will be given to those veterans who schedule a vaccine appointment by calling (787) 641-4591. Walk-ins will be accepted only if vaccines remain once all appointments have been accommodated. Those, if any, will be available while inventory lasts. Veterans taking the vaccine must be available to receive their second dose in 28 days to complete the vaccination.

Governor Bryan, Congresswoman Plaskett Team with Park Service To Increase Enforcement, Safety of Visitors on Buck Island

January 22, 2021.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. and Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett are working with the National Park Service to make available additional resources to ensure the safety of visitors to the Buck Island Reef National Monument in light of recent incidents on the island just off of St. Croix.

Governor Bryan has pledged his support and promised additional resources, primarily manpower that includes officer from the Virgin Islands Police Department and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

The Governor also sent a letter to the Department of the Interior in support of increased funding for resources to maintain the safety of the popular excursion destination for residents and tourists.

“Our primary goal is to ensure the park is safe for our local community as well as visitors to the Territory,” Governor Bryan said. “We also have to be good stewards of the precious natural resources at the Buck Island National Monument, that is why we are going the extra mile to keep Buck Island accessible to everyone.”

Congresswoman Plaskett, who is furthering the issue with federal officials in Washington, D.C., expressed similar concerns about Buck Island.

“The lack of concern for families, individuals, and especially children by the behavior of a few on Buck Island is disappointing and the violence seen recently is appalling and dishonors the work that we have done to ensure that this national treasure remains our local treasure; and not just for us today but for the generations that will come after us.,” the Delegate said. “Our free and uninhibited access as Virgin Islanders to Buck Island is a right that many individuals in the Virgin Islands generally, and on St. Croix particularly, have fought long for, and our office has maintained pressure and done much hard work to keep that birthright.

“The safety of Virgin Islanders and our visitors at Buck Island is important and we will not tolerate a few people destroying the opportunity and access that we have in the jewel that is the Buck Island Reef National Monument,” Congresswoman Plaskett said.

In the interim, until a more permanent solution is found, the National Park Service has sent officers from Florida and Puerto Rico to assist in enforcement.

The collaboration follows an incident earlier this month during which a large group of individuals had a party that did not adhere to COVID-19 social distancing and masking practices and that also resulted in a shooting that left one man individual. A suspect has been arrested in connection with the shooting, which occurred on January 10.

Governor Bryan Meets with Acting FEMA Regional Administrator To discuss STEP Program and Hurricane Recovery Progress

January 21, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During the Government House weekly press briefing on Thursday, January 21, 2021, Communications Director Richard Motta Jr. said that Governor Albert Bryan Jr. met with Acting FEMA Regional Administrator David Maurstad and the men discussed the Territory’s hurricane recovery progress, the STEP (Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power) program and other issues.

The Acting Administrator reaffirmed FEMA’s commitment to resolving the outstanding issues surrounding the STEP program and assured Governor Bryan that the transition of the White House administrations will not affect the progress of the recovery, Director Motta said.

The Governor and Acting Administrator Maurstad also discussed the situation with FEMA’s eligibility determinations for some of the Territory’s requests for repairs to storm-damaged roads.

“After initially determining some of those roads ineligible, FEMA has recently agreed to revisit six sites at the Territory’s request and has reversed its decision,” Director Motta said.

Also under discussion was the Conditional Letter of Map Revision application (CLOMAR) for the Paul E. Joseph Stadium on St. Croix.

“While Acting Administrator Maurstad could not commit to a date for approval of the application, he assured the Governor that he is familiar with the issue and is expediting the review,” Director Motta said. “While on-island, he took the opportunity to tour the project site. Construction on the project currently is stalled lending FEMA’s review of the application.”

Buck Island

Governor Bryan and Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett are working with the National Park Service to make available additional resources to ensure the safety of visitors to Buck Island Reef National Monument following an incident earlier this month when a large gathering that was not adhering to social distancing and masking guidelines got out of hand and resulted in a person being injured by a gunshot.

“Our primary goal is to ensure the park is safe for our local community as well as visitors to the Territory,” Governor Bryan said. “We also have to be good stewards of the precious natural resources at the Buck Island National Monument, that is why we are going the extra mile to keep Buck Island accessible to everyone.”

Until a more permanent solution is found, the National Park Service is providing additional officers from Florida and Puerto Rice to assist in enforcement.

In the January 10 incident, a suspect has been arrested in connection with the shooting.

State of the Territory

Governor Bryan is scheduled to give his third State of the Territory address at 7 p.m. Monday, January 25, 2021, and the speech will be livestreamed at the Government House Facebook page, as well as broadcast on a number of radio stations and TV outlets.

 

Governor Bryan, Lt. Governor Roach Place Luminaries In Remembrance of Virgin Islands COVID-19 Victims

January 19, 2021

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — As part of the nationwide “COVID-19 Memorial to Lives Lost,” which will be part of the inauguration events for President-elect Joe Biden and Vide President-elect Kamala Harris, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. and Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach placed luminaries and candles to remember the 24 Virgin Islanders who died from the virus.

On St. Croix, Governor Bryan placed luminaries on the steps of Government House in Christiansted, and on St. Thomas, Lt. Governor Roach placed candles on the balcony of his office building while Government House remains under repair.

The memorial will take place at 5:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, January 19 in the nation’s capital and cities and towns across America. In Washington, D.C., the memorial will feature the lighting of the Lincoln Memorial Reflective Pool and the illumination of buildings and ringing of church bells in a national moment of unity and remembrance.

“As we take a moment to remember our fellow Virgin Islanders and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who tragically lost their lives to this virus and the many families who are forever changed by their losses and the economic impact of COVID-19,” Governor Bryan said. “Let us also take a moment to reflect on pulling together as a community and as a country to focus on our healing and recovery from the pandemic.”

JFL Illuminated in Honor of National Day of Mourning for COVID-19 Victims

On Tuesday, January 19, 2021 at 6:00 p.m., the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center (“JFL”) will be illuminated in honor of the 24 Virgin Islanders lost to COVID-19 and their families.

The Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center joins President-elect Biden in a “national moment of unity and remembrance” for the lives of those whom we have lost due to this virus by illuminating both JFL and the entrance for JFL North. Similar to lighting a candle, the illumination of the building represents hope and a brighter tomorrow.

According to Interim CEO Dyma Williams, “At JFL, we continue to navigate our way through the sorrow brought on by the onset of the global COVID-19 Pandemic. COVID-19 has drastically changed the provision of patient care. Despite this dynamic change, we are steadfast in our goal to provide compassionate care for every patient and their families during their most vulnerable time. To the families of the victims, we hope that the memories of the moments shared with your loved ones bring you great comfort. We also hope that you would view this evening’s display as a small show of support from the JFL Family to you during your time of mourning.”

 

VI Guard members arrive in Washington, D.C.

January 18, 2021

U.S. Virgin Islands – The Virgin Islands National Guard arrived at the National Capital Region to support federal and District authorities leading up to the 59th Presidential Inauguration, Jan. 17, 2021.

VI soldiers and airmen join other states, territories to the District of Columbia to support law enforcement agencies to ensure a safe transition of power for President-elect Joe Biden and outgoing President Donald Trump.

VING deployed approximately 100 to 120 members to D.C. to assist with crowd management.

National Guard civil support missions generally assist with:

• Supporting civil authorities whose capabilities are insufficient to meet current requirements. • Protecting the life, property, and safety of U.S. citizens. • Protecting critical U.S. infrastructure. • Providing humanitarian assistance during disaster response and domestic emergencies. • Providing support to designated law enforcement activities and operations. • Providing support to designated events and other activities.

Along with supporting the 59th Presidential Inauguration, the Virgin Islands National Guard has been continuously engaged with providing support to the V.I. Department of Health with; COVID-19 testing, patient transportation, airport screenings, beach public safety announcements, and vaccine transportation.

Governor Bryan Calls on Virgin Islanders to Reflect on Unity On Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. is calling on all Virgin Islanders to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday was on Friday, January 15 and is a national holiday celebrated this year on Monday, January 18, to invoke the teachings of Dr. King by reflecting on unity.

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday also is the only national holiday that also is designated as a Day of Service.

In honor of Dr. King, Governor Bryan issued the following statement:

“There is no more appropriate time than now, as our nation stands violently divided and our fellow Americans struggle through the COVID-19 pandemic, to look to the teachings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream of a united and peaceful America,” Governor Bryan said. “Dr. King preached a spiritual and inspiring message of nonviolence and equality, and that certainly is something that our country finds itself needing badly at this time in our history.

“I’m asking all members of our community to do their part to honor this Day of Service and Dr. King’s vision by reflecting on where our country has been going and where we want it to go. Take time to appreciate your fellow Virgin Islanders and the struggles and resilience we have and are experiencing,” the Governor said. “The unity of our country and our community is bigger than any one individual, but if each of us does our part to respect and serve our fellow man, regardless of race, creed or culture, then there is nothing we can’t accomplish in this great nation of ours.”

Governor Bryan Congratulates Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory And Incoming Members of 34th Legislature

January 12, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. issued the following statement congratulating Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory and the incoming members of the 34th Legislature, who took their Oath of Office on Monday at Emancipation Garden on St. Thomas before convening their first session to establish the Senate leadership.

“I want to thank and congratulate the members of the 34th Legislature for stepping up to offer themselves for service as an elected official, especially while we are facing the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Governor Bryan said. “Despite the significant challenges, I am confident in the abilities of this body to carry out its mandate on behalf of the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“The Bryan-Roach Administration looks forward to working with Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory and all members of the 34th Legislature on a progressive agenda for the good of all Virgin Islanders, particularly the legislation that I had submitted to the 33rd Legislature, including the Cannabis Act, the sweeping Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Act and the merger of the V.I. Fire and EMS services,” the Governor said.

“Through our mutual efforts, the Administration and the 34th Legislature can enhance the standard of living in our community by providing revenue to continue our efforts to stabilize the Government of the Virgin Islands and restore the people’s trust,” Governor Bryan said.

Governor Bryan Says Change in U.S. Senate Majority Raises Possibility of Larger Stimulus Payments

.U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his weekly press briefing on Thursday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said the victories of Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff in the U.S. Senate runoff election in Georgia on Tuesday, which gave the Democrats a majority in both houses of Congress, significantly raises the possibility of Virgin Islanders receiving additional Stimulus payments to complement the $600 already approved and signed into law by President Trump.

“With the new composition of the U.S. Senate, there is a likelihood that the $2,000 stimulus proposal that was passed by the House of Representatives on December 29 and initially rejected by the outgoing Republican-led Senate will be brought back under the new Democratic Senate Majority,” Governor Bryan said. “If that passes, the U.S. Treasury Department will add the difference to the $600 to those individuals in some states who already received the second stimulus.”

However, the Governor also explained that because the Territory uses a mirror tax system and has to wait for the U.S. Treasury to provide the funding before the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Department of Finance can distribute the payments, Virgin Islanders may be delayed in receiving the funds.

“With that, we are currently in a holding pattern until Congress decides whether the second round of stimulus payments will remain at $600 or will increase to $2,000,” Governor Bryan said. “We are working with our federal partners to ensure it is the latter. And in such time as we receive the funding from Treasury, we will begin rolling out those stimulus payments to you.”

Vaccines Since the Department of Health executed its COVID-19 mass vaccination plan on December 16, the department has received 4,825 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and has administered 1,571 of them to date, Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion said.

“In the last few days, we advanced our phase-based COVID-19 vaccination plan from 1A to 1B,” Commissioner Encarnacion said. “We continue to meet often with vaccinating providers to navigate challenges and to ensure that prioritized groups are the only people being vaccinated at this time.”

Per recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, Phase 1A includes clinical healthcare staff, residents and staff in long-term care facilities, persons in need of special care and staff in congregate living facilities (outside of nursing homes), patients on dialysis and the elderly throughout the territory.

Phase 1B comprises first responders, grocery store and pharmacy staff, persons with immunocompromised conditions, and specified frontline staff of select local and federal public and private agencies or entities that regularly engage with the public. The start of Phase 1B does not indicate the end of Phase 1A.

Commissioner Encarnacion stressed that the vaccines are fragile and must be stored and handled at certain temperatures and used quickly once ready. She said it is critical that persons in Phase 1A or 1B keep their vaccination appointments.

The Commissioner said there have been no reports of serious side effects from receiving the vaccine, and she said it is important that persons who are vaccinated sign up for VSAFE, an electronic tool that allows the Department of Health to collect and track data on any reactions that may occur.

“We expected some vaccine hesitancy for the initial rollout, but during the second week of vaccinations, we saw a tremendous increase in scheduling and acceptance of the vaccine. Many people have shown an interest in being vaccinated,” Commissioner Encarnacion said. “We have had zero reports of serious side effects from the vaccine, with one report of a very mild allergic reaction. We will continue to update you on any other side effects seen.”

The next vaccination phase is 1C and includes individuals who work in water and waste management, food services, shelters and housing, finance, information technology and communications, energy, legal, and media with a continuation of those not vaccinated in phases 1A and 1B.

“The overall vaccination process is fluid and changes depending on the allotment of vaccines sent to the territory as it becomes available nationally. The territory requests at least the minimum dose amount per vaccine – 975 for Pfizer and 1,900 for Moderna – which is sent weekly as ordered,” Commissioner Encarnacion said. “There are no exact dates for each phase to start and stop. We are in the planning phases for mass vaccination slated for the early Spring of 2021.”

 

 

Governor Bryan Takes Action on 29 Bills, Vetoing Six

01/06/21

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Monday took action on 29 bills from the December 11, 2020, session of the 33rd Legislature, signing 23 of the measures into law and vetoing six of them.

Among the bills Governor Bryan approved are a bill providing amnesty for property owners who have enclosed portions of their homes without submitting building plans; a measure providing tax incentives to businesses that employ persons with disabilities; a bill pertaining to online learning requirements; and an amnesty period until June 30, 2021, waiving penalties for people who have not paid income taxes.

Regarding Bill No. 33-0360, which pertains to setting and implementing standards and requirements for online learning, Governor Bryan noted that the Virgin islands Department of Education already is in compliance with the new regulations through recovery funds from the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

“I must raise the concern that funding will require constant attention in the future for the continued compliance with this Act on behalf of our children,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter to the Legislature. “As the pandemic has caused the need that propelled the Virgin Islands education system forward with technological advancement, I encourage the Board of Education and the Department of Education to fully develop the policies to effectuate the intent of the Act.”

The Governor also approved Bill No. 33-0367, which relates to the composition of and the new duties for the Commission on Aging. However, he noted that some of the government departments required in the new commission are not necessary to its goal, and he said what is more important is that the Commission meet and carry out its mandates to establish programs that meet the needs of aging residents.

Governor Bryan also expressed reservations about Bill No. 33-0369, which authorizes the appropriation of $20,000 from the St. Thomas Capital Improvement Fund for the removal of the bust of King Christian IX from Emancipation Garden and replacing it with “The Conch Shell Blower” statue.

“I must reiterate the cautions testified to by the Virgin islands Council on the Arts that the statue ‘The Conch Shell Blower’ is not appropriate in shape and style to replace the bust of King Christian IX at the location in Emancipation Garden,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter. “Additionally, the appropriation of $20,000 for the relocation of the two statues will most likely fall short of the cost of the project.”

Governor Bryan also approved Bill No. 33-0438, which comprises four separate legislative items: • Appropriating $75,000 from the Centennial Special Fund to the Department of Education for Charlotte Amalie High School’s centennial activities. • Creating regulations regarding the transfer of vehicles to beneficiaries in cases of death and giving beneficiary transfer designations on vehicle title certificates precedence over wills and other testamentary instruments. • Removing personal care products from the prohibition on selling, importing or distributing sunscreen and other products containing oxybenzone, octocylene or octinoxate. • Providing for the continuation of service for board members of the Virgin Islands Public Broadcasting System until a successor is found, divesting board members’ per diem payments and exempting the property of the Public Broadcasting System from judicial processes, taxes and special assessments.

St. Croix Government Offices Without Internet, Phone Service Because of System-Wide Network Outag

01/04/21

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Because of a system-wide network outage, all Government offices on St. Croix are without connectivity. The outage is affecting Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) email, telephone communication and online accessibility. 

The outage occurred when one of the fiber-optic lines owned by the V.I. Next Generation Network was cut on Monday morning.

 

Governor Bryan Issues Statement On COVID-19 Relief Bill

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said he welcomes the federal funding coming to the U.S. Virgin Islands from Congress’ $900 billion COVID-19 relief measure that President Trump signed into law on Sunday, and he said the much-needed federal assistance will bring some level of support to Virgin Islanders and local businesses as the pandemic continues.

“While there is a debate in Congress about what level of relief the federal government should provide to Americans and American businesses, the funding provided in the bill is sorely needed by Virgin Islands residents and businesses alike,” Governor Bryan said. “There are a number of provisions in the measure that directly benefit the Territory, and I want to specifically note the $600 direct Stimulus payments to residents and the CDC’s extension of the rent moratorium through January 21.”

The Governor said that the process of distributing the Stimulus checks authorized under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 will go much more quickly because the vast majority of data and information needed to process and mail the checks was completed during the first round of payments and the Bureau of Internal Revenue already has begun the distribution process.

“We know people needed this money weeks ago, and we are committed to getting it in residents’ hands as soon as possible,” Governor Bryan said. “In addition to the rent moratorium being extended, I want to note that we expect to receive a significant amount of federal funding that has been designated for rental assistance programs.”

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 includes $25 billion to establish the first emergency federal rental assistance program to be distributed by state and local governments, and the funds are for families impacted by COVID-19 who are struggling to pay the rent and may have past due rent. The assistance can be used to pay past due rent and future rent, as well as utility and energy bills to prevent a shutoff.

Governor Bryan said a separate section of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which contains the COVID-19 relief package but is unrelated to it, gives Congressional approval to local projects under the Water Resources Development Act. Those projects include the navigation projects for Christiansted Harbor and St. Thomas Harbor; the Savan Gut flood control project; and the Turpentine Run Road flood control project.

“Authorization for these projects has been a significant USVI priority for some time, and their inclusion in the Consolidated Appropriations Act is a major ‘win’ for the Territory,” Governor Bryan said.

A number of the provisions of the federal COVID-19 relief portion of the ACT directly affecting the U.S. Virgin Islands include:

The period for using Coronavirus Relief Fund monies from the CARES Act is extended to December 31, 2021. • The USVI is eligible to receive a minimum of $100 million in funds through the Education Stabilization Fund to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus in schools. • Significant funding is made available for testing, contact-tracing, surveillance, containment and mitigation of COVID-19 and vaccine distribution and administration in the USVI. • Significant funding is available to the Territory through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grants. • About $5 million to $7 million in Child Care and Development Block Grants will be available to supplement State revenue funds for child care assistance. • About $3 million is earmarked for Fisheries Disaster Assistance. • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program is extended through April 5, and the number of weeks an individual can claim benefits increases from 39 to 50. • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation is extended through March 14 at $300 per week. • Another $245 billion in Paycheck Protection Program funds is available for businesses.

Governor Bryan Congratulates Hemp Commission On Issuance of First Production License

December 24, 20202

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. congratulated the Virgin Islands Hemp Commission on its action to issue the first license to produce hemp in the Territory after voting unanimously during a virtual meeting on Wednesday, December 23, and launching the Industrial Hemp Industry in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Hemp Commission received and reviewed the applications from Crucian Hemp Farms, LLLP, to be licensed and registered as a Commercial Hemp Grower, Hemp Seed Distributer and Hemp Transporter. Crucian Hemp Farms is the Territory’s first Opportunity Zone business and the primary operators include five Virgin Islanders.

“This begins a new economic era in the U.S. Virgin Islands that will not only benefit the government through new revenue streams, but also will provide economic and growth opportunities for the Territory’s farmers and local business entrepreneurs,” Governor Bryan said. “I applaud the efforts of the Hemp Commission and note that they accomplished this in three months after streamlining the application process by using an online database that the commission opened to the public in September.”

The Hemp Commission used a new software platform, managed by the Office of the Governor and the Bureau of Information Technology, called MyGov, which also has been used by the Virgin Islands Energy Office to process applications for consumer energy programs. The new digital licensing portal is part of Governor Bryan’s commitment to digitize the Government of the Virgin Islands and streamline and expedite interactions between residents and government agencies.

Crucian Hemp Farms intends to cultivate and harvest 125 acres of compliant CBD-rich hemp and harvesting up to 3 times a year with potential yields of up to 4000 pounds of dry weight per acre.

In its applications, the company said it will use an environmentally sustainable approach by applying agro- ecological principles to build and maintain healthy soil, use responsible water management practices that promote biodiversity. Crucian Hemp Farms also said it will ensure that all plants are grown in compliance according to guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture and the Virgin Islands Hemp Commission.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the six members of the Hemp Commission considered Crucian Hemp Farms’ applications, as well as multiple forms of paperwork and documentation that showed the company’s compliance with USDA federal rules and the Territory’s locally approved Hemp Plan created by the Office of the Governor before voting unanimously to approve the licenses and registrations.

The Hemp Commission members who participated in Wednesday’s vote are Dr. David Hall, president of the University of the Virgin Islands; V.I. Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor; Senator Allison DeGazon; Agriculture Commissioner Positive T.A. Nelson; Carol Jacobs of the Virgin Islands Department of Justice; and Laurent Alfred, a member of the Hemp Retailers Association.

 

Governor Bryan Calls 33rd Legislature Into Special Session To Re-Address New GVI Debt Refinancing Proposal

December 21, 2020

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Monday said he is calling the 33rd Legislature back into Special Session on December 29 to re-address his proposal to refinance the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) debt to get a better interest rate and generate funds from the savings that can be used to shore up the Government Employees’ Retirement System or any other use for the funds that the Senate chooses.

The Governor also said his Administration is putting together a stimulus plan for teachers to offset any personal costs they incurred during the implementation of the virtual learning system.

Governor Bryan said the proposal front-loaded the savings from a more favorable interest rate to create a significant cash infusion.

“There appears to be very little appetite in the Senate for that approach to solving our fiscal issues,” the Governor said. “However, the opportunity to refinance those bonds and reduce our long-term debt is still too unique of an opportunity to overlook.

“It is a matter of good fiscal prudence to pursue lower interest rates and reductions in debt service obligations,” Governor Bryan said. “It would be fiscally irresponsible to ignore this opportunity that will not be with us indefinitely.”

The Governor said his revised proposal will have a reasonable and competitive cap on the interest rate, and the Administration will pursue a conventional refinancing with the savings distributed throughout the 20-year amortization period.

Teacher Stimulus

Governor Bryan also said he is working to make funding available through the CARES Act to give stimulus payments to educators

.“While we can never repay our debt of gratitude to our educators, especially for their innovation and adaptation to this new paradigm,” Governor Bryan said. “We endeavor to assist in easing any financial burdens incurred as a result of our virtual learning mandate.”

The Governor also said the Administration continues to move forward on its existing programs to assist all Virgin Islanders negatively impacted by COVID-19, and that he is awaiting the details from the agreement that Congress appears to have reached regarding federal stimulus payments and an unemployment stipend.

Vaccines

Governor Bryan said the Moderna vaccine has arrived on-island and is being distributed to health care workers, and another shipment of the Pfizer vaccine is scheduled to arrive in the Territory this week. The Governor said he, Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion and Human Services Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez all received vaccinations over the weekend, and about 260 individuals were safely vaccinated last week.

“The three of us received our vaccines at thew Charles Harwood Clinic on Saturday morning,” Governor Bryan said. “I know that a lot of you in the community have some level of anxiety around the safety of this vaccine, and so we wanted to lead by example and personally validate the safety of the Pfizer vaccine.”

The Governor said he had no real side effects from the shot, and he will be getting his second dose of the vaccine in January and will report on the experience.

“I truly believe that the availability of this vaccine coupled with increased testing and other federal resources will help us get out from under this pandemic,” Governor Bryan said.

Governor Bryan Thanks DPW Commissioner Nelson Petty Jr. For His Productive Tenure Serving Virgin Islanders

December 20, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. issued a statement thanking Department of Public Works Commissioner Nelson Petty Jr. for his years of service maintaining and upgrading the Territory’s infrastructure, particularly after the devastating hurricanes of 2017.

Commissioner Petty is leaving public service at the end of the month to work in the private sector and will be a Division Manager of a private company’s operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Commissioner Petty is leaving some large boots to fill, and while the Territory, and the Bryan/Roach Administration, will miss the excellent job he has done since taking the helm of the department in 2017, I wish him nothing but success in his new role,” Governor Bryan said.

Commissioner Petty said some of the more memorable projects he has undertaken while heading the Department of Public Works include the expansion of Veterans Drive on the St. Thomas Waterfront; ongoing repairs and construction on Melvin Evans Highway on St. Croix; the Main Street Enhancement Project in Downtown Charlotte Amalie; and the new VITRAN Transit Maintenance and Operations Bus Facility on St. Croix.

“Being the Commissioner over the last three years has afforded me the opportunity to meet and make lasting connections with members of the Governor’s Cabinet, governing boards, members of the Chambers of Commerce, business leaders, contractors and others, for which I am truly thankful,” the Commissioner said. “However, I am most appreciative of the bonds that were formed with the employees of the Department of Public Works. I wish them well and have every confidence that they will continue to serve the people of the Virgin Islands honorably and to the best of their ability. I’d also like to thank Governor Bryan and Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach for this opportunity to serve the Virgin Islands.”

Commissioner Petty joined the Department of Public Works in 1996 and held a number of positions with the DPW, including overseeing the Federal Highway Division until accepting the nomination for commissioner.

Assistant Public Works Commissioner Dennis Brow will be the Acting Commissioner, effective January 1, 2021, following Commissioner Petty’s departure.

 

V.I. Housing Authority takes ‘Helping Hands’ rent repayment campaign to the air waves as end of CDC eviction moratorium nears

December 18, 2020.

With the expiration of a federal eviction moratorium approaching on December 31st, 2020 and a one-month extension expected from Congress, the Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA) is taking to the radio air waves on Wednesday to promote a program that helps its residents who are behind on their rent remain in their apartments.

Last March, seeing the novel coronavirus pandemic take its toll on workers’ incomes, VIHA launched the Helping Hands program to give residents options for dealing with unpaid rent and mounting debt.

“We can work with you to set up a repayment plan within your means,” said Director of Asset Management Jimmy Farmer, whose staff created Helping Hands. “Even if you owe $1,000 or more, a reasonable amount repaid each month in addition to your regular month’s rent can keep you in good standing.

The repayment agreement is a written, signed contract between tenant and landlord – in this case, VIHA -- spelling out the amount of rent you owe, how much you will pay per month, and for how many months. For VIHA residents, the total amount of rent plus repayment can never exceed 40 percent of adjusted income.

“If you had a decrease in income or a change in circumstances that made it difficult to pay your rent on time, we can recertify your income and adjust your rent to reflect the change,” Farmer added.

The federal CARES Act enacted the first eviction moratorium last March for 120 days. As unemployment figures rose and the virus showed no sign of slowing, protections against eviction continued at the state, local and national level to keep millions of renters housed.

The most recent issued by the Centers for Disease Control is in effect until December 31st, 2020, and an extension to January 21st, 2021 is reportedly reaching consensus in Congress.

 

Governor Bryan Announces Second Batch Of December Income Tax Refunds

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced that a second round of income tax refunds was disbursed this month, for a total of more than $15 million in December.

On Monday, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) sent out 3,550 refund checks totaling $10,210,766. Last week, the BIR sent out 1,100 refund checks totaling $5 million.

The checks disbursed this month also include refunds from Tax Year 2018, according to BIR Director Joel Lee.

To date, the Bryan Roach Administration has issued 37,700 checks totaling $112.8 million. For Fiscal Year 2020, the Administration issued 24,700 checks totaling $68 million.

“A core foundation of the Bryan/Roach Administration is stabilizing the government and restoring the people’s trust in the government. The income tax refunds we have sent out is one way our Administration is living up to that promise,” Governor Bryan said. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a staggering effect on the Territory’s economy and the Government’s revenue, it also is important that the Government fulfill its obligation to the people. We will continue to do so by bringing the backlog of tax refunds, which have languished for years, back to being current and further stabilize the Government of the Virgin Islands.”

Taxpayers who believe they are owed an income tax refund from 2017 or earlier years should contact the Bureau of Internal Revenue in their District to rectify any tax issues that exist or resolve any issues with their account.

BIR offices at Sunny Isle on St. Croix and in Red Hook on St. Thomas are open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday- Friday. For more information, call 340-773-1040 on St. Croix or 340-715-1040 in the St. Thomas-St. John District.

The Bryan/Roach Administration says 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.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR ROACH ANNOUNCES WAIVER OF COST SHARING FOR COVID-19 VACCINATIONS BY INSURANCE COMPANIES

DECEMBER 17, 2020.

Lieutenant Governor Tregenza A. Roach, Esq., who also serves as the Virgin Islands Commissioner of Insurance, announces that health insurance companies authorized to conduct business in the Territory are required to waive any cost sharing for COVID-19 vaccinationsincluding deductibles, co-insurance, and co-payments.

There are three health insurance companies licensed to conduct business in the Territory and offering group health insurance, which includes Cigna, United Healthcare and Elan. Medicare is also a form of insurance. The Virgin Islands State Health Insurance Assistance Program (VI SHIP) Medicare offices fall under the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires health insurers and health plans to treat the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine as a preventive service. “As such, health insurers and health plans are to pay all COVID-19 vaccination related costs without cost-sharing or balance billing,” said Lieutenant Governor Roach.

“The vaccine is a major step forward in combating COVID-19. Virgin Islanders who want to receive the vaccine can rest assured that group health plans and health insurance issuers offering group or individual health insurance are required to cover any qualifying coronavirus preventive service. This includes the vaccine or immunization,” said Lieutenant Governor Roach.

It is very important that Virgin Islands Medicare beneficiaries understand their plan and costs that are covered regarding COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. Medicare beneficiaries may contact the VI SHIP/Medicare office in the St. Thomas/St. John District at 340-774-2991, extension 4507 or in the St. Croix District at 340-778-6311, extension 3110.

 

Governor Bryan Closes Nightclubs, Bars to Close After Christmas As COVID-19 Cases Continue to Spike Across the Territory

December 14, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Monday said he is closing nightclubs – beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday, December 17 – in an effort to mitigate the continued spike of COVID-19 cases in the Territory and across the mainland U.S.

Governor Bryan also said that all bars are to close from Christmas Day until at least January 8 – at which time the Department of Health will reassess the threat of the virus spreading – and that he is stepping up enforcement on property owners who allow their properties to be used for parties in violation of COVID-19 protocols.

Our neighbors in Puerto Rico and the BVI imposed curfews in attempts to curtail the spread of the virus. The USVI COVID Task Force has begun discussions on the implementation of a curfew to curtail nighttime gatherings,” Governor Bryan said. “I want everyone within the sound of my voice to know that I am perhaps the one person standing between you and a curfew here in the Territory.

“So, I am appealing to you, please stop trying to make sense out of nonsense and wear your mask and do the things that you need to do,” the Governor said.

Governor Bryan said he plans to publicly receive the vaccine to demonstrate its safety and to encourage all residents to get vaccinated.

Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion provided details of the vaccine rollout in the U.S. Virgin Islands, with the Pfizer vaccine set to arrive this week in the Territory and the Moderna vaccine coming next week.

“A minimum of 975 doses are expected to be in the territory this week to start Phase 1A vaccinations, to include clinical healthcare staff and persons in long-term care facilities,” Commissioner Encarnacion said. “Populations in Phases 1B through C comprise first responders, persons with immunocompromised conditions and the senior population as more vaccines are ordered and delivered on a weekly basis.”

Last week the Department of Health worked with federal officials to test its distribution plan for dispersing the vaccines throughout the Territory, and next steps include continued healthcare provider training by federal and Pfizer vaccine officials, finalizing details of vaccination scheduling of targeted populations, confirming data reporting, and continued dissemination of public information.

Commissioner Encarnacion reiterated the importance of staying safe and keeping others safe during the holiday period, and she stressed that avoiding travel and gatherings is the safest approach.

“Many residents are traveling to the mainland to attend mass gatherings and are not following best practices for reducing the spread of COVID-19,” the Commissioner said. “We are still strongly discouraging residents from non-essential travel as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the U.S. mainland and locally. Travel increases your chance of getting COVID-19 especially in areas with a high positivity rate.”

 

Governor Bryan Hails Court Decision To Lift Injunction Against Collecting Excise Tax

December 9, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Wednesday praised the decision of U.S. District Court Judge Robert Molloy to lift the injunction that prohibited the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) from collecting excise taxes in the Territory.

In his ruling Wednesday, Judge Molloy said the GVI can resume collecting excise taxes beginning January 1, 2021, after the Bureau of Internal Revenue was able to show that it had adopted an electronic system that assigns excise tax equitably to importers as well as local manufacturers.

“This is certainly welcome news at a time when revenue for the GVI is in a precarious place because of the economic crash brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Governor Bryan said. “Because the Bryan/Roach Financial Team successfully balanced the Fiscal Year 2021 budget with the expectation of not having excise tax revenue, this decision provides some leeway to use the additional revenue from excise taxes for critical government projects that are key to stabilizing the economy and the Government of the Virgin Islands.

BIR Director Joel Lee estimates that excise taxes account for about $40 million in annual revenue for the GVI. Through November 2020, GVI excise tax revenues totaling more than $84 million had been lost because of U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Gomez’s 2018 decision to halt the collection of excise taxes.

Excise tax collection from importers and local manufacturers will resume on January 1, Director Lee said.

Judge Molloy’s ruling Wednesday brings the case closer to a final resolution, and he has scheduled a follow-up hearing for February 3 to assess the resumption of excise tax collections, according to Attorney General Denise George.

“I want to thank OMB Director Jenifer O’Neal, BIR Director Joel Lee, Attorney General Denise George, the Office of Legal Counsel and their staffs for their persistence in resolving this vital and much-needed source of revenue for the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Governor Bryan said.

The collection of excise tax in the USVI was stopped in 2018, when the District Court enjoined the collection of excise taxes in Reefco’s suit filed against the GVI. In its lawsuit, Reefco claimed that it was owed a refund from the government for its excise taxes because the BIR had been taxing importers of manufactured goods but had not been taxing local manufacturers, thereby violating the Commerce Clause.

In October, a 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals panel remanded the case to the District Court to determine whether the GVI may have taken adequate steps to resume collecting excise taxes and directed the lower court to hold further proceedings to determine whether the injunction could be lifted, resulting in Judge Molloy’s ruling on Wednesday.

“This is quite a victory for the territory. It was a long and challenging legal battle from the District Court to the Third Circuit and back,” said Attorney General George. “I must commend the outstanding work of our legal team working in conjunction with Director Lee and his team at the Bureau of Internal Revenue who built the process necessary to start collections again.”

 

Governor Bryan Addresses Spike in Territory’s COVID-19 Cases, Securitization Senate Hearing at Weekly Press Briefing

December 7, 2020..

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his weekly press briefing on Monday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. spoke about the current spike in COVID-19 cases in the Territory, urging residents to scale back get-togethers during the holiday season and to continue their steadfast adherence to the Department of Health guidelines and restrictions regarding masks, social distancing and other precautions against the spread of the virus.

The Governor also said that further restrictions will have to be imposed in the next few weeks – including mandating 100% testing at the airports – to continue to be able to manage the pandemic.

“Individuals who come to the Territory without a negative test will be mandated to be tested at a personal cost,” Governor Bryan said. “Those who refuse to be tested will be fined and subject to a 14-day quarantine.”

The Governor said the fine that will be imposed will be significantly more than the cost of getting a COVID-19 test.

“The only delay to this being implemented is the availability of tests and testing, as well as the software changes needed for a smooth transition to this format,” Governor Bryan said. “We were successful in joining the new initiative by American Airlines to provide pre-boarding testing and will continue to pursue this with other airline partners.”

Additionally, Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Tai Hunte-Ceasar talked about the soon-to-be-released COVID-19 vaccines and underscored the thorough vetting and testing the vaccines underwent, and she assured the community that the vaccines are safe to use and the best way to stop the spread of the virus around the world.

“The materials that are used to make vaccines are safe to be injected into our bodies because all vaccine ingredients are already existing in our bodies in much larger quantities,” Dr. Hunte-Ceasar said. “Moreover, the risks of receiving a vaccination are exponentially lower than the risks of many other things that contribute to chronic diseases and cancer, such as the consumption of drugs, alcohol and unhealthy food and other self-imposed risky behavioral practices.”

Governor Bryan advised all residents to avoid any get-togethers or holiday gatherings and discouraged any non- essential travel.

“I know nine months is a long time and we are all exhausted and tired of hearing about the Coronavirus, but we cannot afford to become complacent. Virgin Islanders, I cannot stress enough how serious this is,” Governor Bryan said. “Most of our active cases present few symptoms or are asymptomatic, meaning you can’t see or sense who is infected with this virus. The best way to guard against it is to follow the guidelines and protect yourself and your loved ones.”

Debt-refinancing proposal Before closing out his remarks to take questions from the media, the Governor also spoke at length about the Senate hearing on Tuesday, December 8, regarding Governor Bryan’s proposal to refinance the Government of the Virgin Islands debt for a lower interest rate, and he asked the 33rd Legislature to pass the proposal and put the resulting savings from the transaction toward the Government Employee’s Retirement System.

The Governor said he has spent the last three months having conversations with Virgin Islanders about the securitization proposal and has had the opportunity to answer questions and address concerns that residents had.

“In those conversations, what I have found is that Virgin Islanders are not against refinancing our debt. As a matter of fact, they agree that a 25% reduction on the interest we currently pay on our debt is a good idea and worth pursuing,” Governor Bryan said. “No one has come out to say that refinancing the entire debt is a bad thing. The only logical objection that is left is saying that taking that savings and using it to address critical government projects and obligations, one of which is the GERS, is a bad thing.”

Governor Bryan pointed out that the debt already exists and his Administration is not talking about borrowing any more with this proposal.

“If you do not want to give any money to the GERS, then say that, and vote to refinance the debt, save the money and lower our debt payment annually, but we cannot afford to lose this opportunity by simply doing nothing,” the Governor said.

Governor Bryan also stressed that the debt-refinancing proposal will avoid a 42% cut in benefits for retirees at the beginning of 2021 and the proposal is not a complete solution for GERS, but one of many initiatives, including collection of excise taxes; pursuing the gasoline excise taxes; development of internet gaming; taxation of adult- use of cannabis, expansion of the rum distillery industry and restructuring of the benefits plan for active and new government employees.

All U.S. Flags in the Territory Should Fly at Half-Staff In Observance of Pearl Harbor Day, December 7

.US VIRGIN ISLANDS –– Governor Albert Bryan Jr. is reminding Virgin Islanders that all U.S. flags should fly at half-staff in observance of Pearl Harbor Day on December 7.

All flags should be flown half-staff all day until sunset on December 7, 2020, to remember and honor the 2,403 United States citizens who were killed in the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, which led to the United States declaring war on Japan the next day and thus entering World War II.

Congress passed a joint resolution in 1994 declaring December 7 of every year as Pearl Harbor Day or Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

Please ensure that any and all American flags being flown at your workplace are properly raised fully, then lowered immediately to half-staff at sunrise on Monday, December 7, 2020.

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.

Bryan/Roach Administration Issues Another Round of Income Tax Refunds

December 4, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Bryan/Roach Administration is in the process of issuing another round of income tax refunds – $15 million in two disbursements that will be completed by December 15, according to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

This latest round of tax refunds also will include refunds for tax year 2018.

To date, the Bryan Roach has issued 37,700 checks totaling $112.8 million. For Fiscal Year 2020, the Administration issued 24,700 checks totaling $68 million.

The $5 million run of 1,100 checks and the $10 million distribution that will be completed by December 15 are the first issuances of income tax refunds for FY 2021.

“A core foundation of the Bryan/Roach Administration is stabilizing the government and restoring the people’s trust in the government. The income tax refunds we have sent out is one way our Administration is living up to that promise,” Governor Bryan said. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a staggering effect on the Territory’s economy and the Government’s revenue, it also is important that the Government fulfill its obligation to the people. We will continue to do so by bringing the backlog of tax refunds, which have languished for years, back to being current and further stabilize the Government of the Virgin Islands.”

Taxpayers who believe they are owed an income tax refund from 2017 or earlier years should contact the Bureau of Internal Revenue in their District to rectify any tax issues that exist or resolve any issues with their account.

Bryan/Roach Administration Outlines COVID-19's Economic Impact on USVI Inbox

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS -- In keeping with Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s pledge of transparency, the administration’s Office of Management and Budget held its fall Revenue Estimating Conference on Wednesday where 18 of the government’s revenue-generating agencies provided a revenue outlook for Fiscal Year 2021.

Governor Bryan, OMB Director Jenifer O’Neal, and members of the Governor’s Cabinet shared the FY 21 revenue forecast with attendees at the virtual conference, which included members of the 33rd Legislature and Senators-elect who will join the 34th Legislature in January. The Governor said Wednesday that despite the adverse effects of COVID-19 on the economy, the USVI will maintain a level of stability through this fiscal year largely due to the administration’s cost-cutting and efforts to move forward government projects.

“Government projects are the things that stand between us and a real economic catastrophe. It’s not if it’s coming; it’s when it’s coming,” Governor Bryan said during his remarks to open the conference. “Our ability to handle the finances thus far during this past year has proven very beneficial to us. We’re in a good cash position right now, and we’re in a good financial position. But we cannot stop there.” OMB Director Jenifer O’Neal forecast a FY 2021 revenue of $773.4 million, which is down from FY 2019 actual revenue of $845.2 million. The Director’s breakdown of the revenue forecast for FY 2021 is:

Individual Income Tax – $407.1 million ($443.7 million in FY 2019) Gross Receipts Tax – $185.9 million ($190.1 million in FY 2019) Real Property Tax – $53 million ($56 million in FY 2019) Corporate Income Tax – $60.7 million ($67.4 million in FY 2019) Trade & Excise Tax – $2.1 million ($2 million in FY 2019) Other Operating Revenue – $64.5 million ($86 million in FY 2019)

“We do expect for 2021 the number is lower because, again, in the 2020 calendar year so far, we’ve had a number of closures, and a number of businesses have not been open for a long period of time,” Director O’Neal said. “A lot of people haven’t really been working, so we do expect our tax base will be a lot less and collections, therefore, will be a lot less in 2021.” According to a Moody’s Revenue Analysis done for OMB, the FY 2021 budgeted revenue of $773.4 million is followed by an estimated FY 2022 revenue of $756.3 million and an estimated FY 2023 revenue of $850.4 million. Some of the key points from the various agencies’ presentations at the Revenue Estimating Conference include:

The Property Tax collection forecast for FY 2021 of $58 million is on track with FY 2020’s forecast of $54.7 million and actual amount of $62.9 million. Excise Tax losses as of October 30, 2020, are $80.9 million. Total Tax Revenue for FY 2020 was $822,379,518, comprising $262 million in Gross Receipts Taxes; $454 million of individual income taxes; $68 million of corporate income taxes; and $32.4 million in finds from other Bureau of Internal Revenue funds. As of October, the Territory’s unemployment rate is 9.4% with 4,220 unemployed – 1,700 of 20,867 unemployed on St. Croix (8.1%) and 2,520 of 24,050 unemployed on St. Thomas-St. John (10.1%). Air visitor arrivals from January-August 2020 were 281,699, down 39% from 464,926 from the same period in 2019. Hotel Tax revenue from FY 2020 was $17.7 million, down from $20.5 million in FY 2019. Cruise arrivals are not anticipated to return until spring 2021, and expected passenger arrivals will be down considerably for the year. Hotel Tax revenues will be reduced for FY 2021, and the continued postponement of major properties, such as the Marriott, coming back online further contribute to the delay in revenue growth. Airlines continue to bring back service with increased frequency, and additional carriers are introducing service.

.Video of the entire Revenue Estimating Conference is available on WTJX’s Facebook page and copies of the presentations are available on the OMB website: omb.vi.gov. 

VI Dept of Human Services: No Additional Issuances of P-EBT Approved or Announced for October, November or December

December 2, 2020

(US VIRGIN ISLANDS) – The Virgin Islands Department of Human Services (DHS), today announced that PEBT plan for October, November or December issuance has not been approved. While discussions continue with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to issue additional emergency Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits, the approval to do so has not been granted.

P-EBT was granted as a single issuance, not a regular monthly benefit. Due to continued school closures, there is a possibility of additional issuances in the future, but no guarantee. 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. Contact your respective school for details.

As part of national and federal efforts to lessen the negative impact of Covid-19 on community residents, the USDA and FNS implemented the Pandemic EBT benefit as a temporary measure to help provide food assistance to all Virgin Islands SNAP and non-SNAP households with children who attend local public and eligible private schools (grades K – 12) who had lost access to free school meals due to pandemic-related public and private school closures.

DPNR & DPW PROVIDE CLARIFICATION ON THE PAUL E. JOSEPH STADIUM

December 1, 2020

ST. CROIX - The Department of Public Works, Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) office is responsible for the planning, construction, renovation, and improvement of government infrastructure facilities, as directed and prioritized by the Office of the Governor.

While the Paul E. Joseph Stadium project has experienced several delays and appears to the layman that little work has been done, much of the completed work is in fact underground. However, the project is currently on hold as the department awaits a response from FEMA on its Conditional Letter of Map Revision (CLOMR) application. This application was necessary to amend the current map, as a portion of the property lies in a floodplain area.

Contrary to recent reports, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) and the Department of Public Works were aware that the property was in a floodplain area and determined that this would not affect the viability of the future plans for the stadium. A decision was made that the project would be submitted for permitting in phases to allow for the design process to be finalized – once finalized it would then be submitted and reviewed.

On November 25, DPW received a response from FEMA indicating that the application is under review and a formal request for additional information would be sent. Additionally, they advised that the average processing time for applications from start to finish is approximately six months, with some simpler cases requiring less time and more complex cases requiring more time. As a matter of fact, FEMA is scheduled to meet with the PEJ Stadium contractor this Friday, to discuss expediting the approval of the application. Based on the initial engineering data, it was determined that there is a high probability the approval will happen quickly.

“The decision to submit a CLOMR application was the best option to keep the project on budget, while maintaining the requirements of the floodplain regulations,” said DPNR Commissioner, J.P. Oriol. The department had two options to address the floodplain challenge: request a No-Rise analysis or a map amendment – CLOMR.

The claim, in recent reports, indicating DPNR had previously issued a building permit for the stadium, but pulled it back only after realizing FEMA considers the stadium grounds a floodplain is false. On August 4, 2020, work on the PEJ project was stopped and the permit was pulled because the permits for the next phase of work were not approved.

Given that progress is halted until the CLOMR is accepted and the building permit is re- issued, the balance of the construction will resume no later than May of 2021.

Health Department Gives Details on Distribution Drill For Arrival of Future COVID-19 Vaccine

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During the Government House weekly press briefing on Monday, Territorial Epidemiologist Dr. Esther Ellis provided some details on the distribution drill the Department of Health is conducting this week in advance of the expected arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Using a “mock” vaccine, the Department of Health drill involves testing the ordering, delivery and reporting of receipt of the Pfizer vaccine in the Territory during the first of three phases, according to Dr. Ellis.

“Specific to the Territory is the redistribution of the vaccine from facilities with ultra-cold refrigeration to providers who will administer the vaccine,” Dr. Ellis said. “Two facilities with ultra-cold refrigeration units on St. Croix and St. Thomas will act as ‘hubs,’ or places where the vaccine will be stored. Six of the 15 healthcare providers who signed up to participate in the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Program will be ‘spokes’ in the drill where persons would be able to receive the vaccine.”

The Department of Health has collaborated with federal and local partners, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency and the Virgin Islands National Guard to carry our the “hub and spokes” logistical approach.

When the Territory receives the actual vaccine, populations deemed critical will be vaccinated during the first phase and include clinical staff, first responders, persons with immunocompromised conditions and those in long- term care facilities,” Dr. Ellis said.

The subsequent phases will include the elderly, behavioral health patients – specifically the chronically homeless – and incarcerated persons, with the vaccine expected to be available to the wider general population in the Spring 2021, she said.

Boating and masks

During the briefing, Government House Communications Director Richard Motta Jr. said Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s COVID-19 Task Force is re-evaluating the guidelines regarding boaters and the requirements for masking while they are at sea.

“The task force is re-examining the policy to determine whether adjustments at this time are warranted,” Director Motta said. “Bear in mind that everything we do is ultimately for the protection of the public health of Virgin Islands residents. Our regulations are already considerably less stringent than other boating destinations in the Caribbean.”

Governor Bryan Calls 33rd Legislature into Special Session To Act on a Second Securitization Proposal

November 27, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Monday called the 33rd Legislature into a Special Session to take action on his proposal to reauthorize the Matching Fund Securitization, as well as to address two other legislative matters.

The Governor set the date for the session as December 3.

The Governor’s proposal seeks to increase revenue for the Territory by refinancing the existing Matching Fund debt for savings and allowing the USVI to re-enter the public bond market. The cash flow from the refunding of the bonds, in collaboration with the Legislature, will be assigned to priority areas, such as the Government Employees’ Retirement System and infrastructure projects in the Territory.

“The proposed securitization of the Matching Fund Receipts, which is not an uncommon practice in the marketplace and has been used in the industry with great success, is expected to significantly increase cash flow to the Government of the next three fiscal years by replacing higher interest bonds with lower interest bonds, generate significant savings from the proceeds of the bonds, achieve an investment-grade rating that would return a government entity to the bond markets, and create a vehicle for the government’s future bond needs,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter to Senate President Novelle Francis Jr.

On a separate matter, the Governor also submitted proposed legislation amending Act 8310, which addresses the Governor’s authority to borrow monies from public funds of the Virgin Islands to offset cash flow problems caused by shortfalls in the collection of revenues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic for fiscal year 2021 instead of the previously authorized fiscal year 2020.

The 33rd Legislature had passed a previous version of the bill earlier this year that authorized the Government to access a line of credit to be used for Government operations affected by the financial fallout from the virus pandemic. That bill, which was not used, authorized borrowing based on FY2020 revenues.

 

Senator Elect Carla Joseph released statement in observance of Thanksgiving

"Thanksgiving Day is a time to celebrate the blessings of the past year.  While 2020 has certainly been a challenging year for everyone across the world, we must still give thanks.  As we gather in various ways whether virtually or in person, let us give thanks individually and collectively for what we have, for our islands being spared from the storms, for life itself.  Everyday is a new beginning and if we are here, GOD has us here for a reason.  Let us give thanks for food, clothes, and shelter.  Let us pledge to support and assist the works of our churches and charities around our community that fill the gap to assist those in need. As we are blessed, may we be a blessing.  May GOD bless every household across these Virgin Islands with peace, with love for each other and with a heart of thanks.  Happy Thanksgiving.”

Governor Bryan, COVID-19 Task Force Urge Extra Caution For Thanksgiving Holiday Gatherings

November 24, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. wished Virgin Islanders a safe and healthy Thanksgiving holiday, imploring all the Territory’s residents to follow CDC guidelines for any family gatherings and to make Friday, November 27, a “Day of Family, Prayer and Reflection” to consider the tough year everyone has had with the COVID-19 pandemic and the extremely active hurricane season.

The Governor also announced that he’s calling the 33rd Legislature into a Special Session on December 3 to take up a second securitization bill, that seeks to create revenue for the Territory by refinancing the government’s debt and allowing the USVI to re-enter the bond market. The proceeds from the refunding of the bonds in collaboration with the Legislature will be assigned to priority areas, such as the Government Employees’ Retirement System and infrastructure projects in the Territory.

Regarding the administrative leave, Governor Bryan said all non-essential government employees are granted administrative leave, and he urged private sector businesses to participate and allow their employees to have the day off as well.

“We give thanks to the almighty Creator for sparing us through another hurricane season and extend our prayers to those who were not as fortunate during what has been a record year for storm activity in the Atlantic,” Governor Bryan said. “Please utilize the day to spend with family and reflect on our many blessings received. In a year that has been filled with many trials, we remain thankful.”

The Governor also said he is instituting a two-week “soft shutdown” of government agencies and asking all department heads and commissioners to allow their staff to work remotely for the two weeks after Thanksgiving weekend.

“I am urging all private and public employers to follow suit. Allow workers to perform their duties remotely where possible, or to take time off, or to work staggered schedules,” Governor Bryan said.

As another safety measure against a widespread outbreak of COVID-19 after the Thanksgiving holiday, Governor Bryan is instituting a moratorium on the issuance of permits for large events.

“No permits will be granted for any activities in public spaces for large events, sports tournaments or food sales until further notice,” the Governor said. “Those of you who have plans to do so, please cancel them now. No exceptions. This is not a time to be out but to recognize the way that the U.S, mainland is trending if we are not diligent, another shutdown Territory-wide is imminent.”

Governor Bryan also advised residents who plan to gather for Thanksgiving of the CDC guidelines to make for a safer holiday get-together:

*Move meals outdoors if possible * If celebrating indoors, open windows and doors to keep fresh air flowing *Limit the number of guests to 10 or less and do not attempt to have a mass gathering* Limit the number of people going in and out of the kitchen *Don’t be embarrassed to ask people dropping by to wear their masks* Keep 6 feet away from people you don’t live with*Encourage guests to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer

“This year’s holiday will prove difficult for a lot of Virgin Islanders as we are accustomed to gather together and celebrate each other and the things we are grateful for,” Governor Bryan said. “But the reality is that the COVID-19 virus is spreading at record levels all throughout the United States. Americans today have a greater risk of contracting the virus now more than any other time this year.

Here at home, we are swimming against the current trying not to follow that negative trend,” Governor Bryan said. “But the number of our active cases for the last two weeks have been slowly rising upwards.”

Governor Bryan Sends Letter to Congress Requesting Additional Federal COVID-19 Relief

November 24, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has written to the leadership of the U.S. Congress asking for additional federal COVID-19 relief for the Territory as the USVI struggles with the dormant Tourism industry and the continuing financial drain on the economy and local business community.

In his letter to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Governor Bryan issued an urgent request for further COVID-19 Relief Fund Aid.

“This correspondence presents three urgent requests for immediate relief: 1) a fresh infusion of direct Coronavirus Relief Fund aid; 2) waiver of the local cost-share requirement for both already-appropriated and forthcoming FEMA disaster relief payments; and 3) cancellation of the Territory’s $300 million in Community Disaster Loans,” Governor Bryan wrote.

The Governor said that the ongoing negative impact on the tourism sector from the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a loss of tax revenues and has forced the Territory to implement severe budget cuts to maintain operations.

Of the $150 billion appropriated for direct relief to the states, territories and tribal governments under the CARES Act’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, the Government of the Virgin Islands received approximately $75 million – about one-sixteenth of the grants provided to even the smallest states.

In requesting that the local cost-share for FEMA public assistance be waived, Governor Bryan pointed out that the $5 billion in FEMA funding available to the USVI from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, at a 10% local match, and the COVID-19 relief, with a 25% match, would require the Territory to provide $500 million in local matching funds.

“There are no finds to pay the necessary local match for federal grants,” Governor Bryan wrote. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Territory has had to dramatically reduce its budget by as much as $60 million for fiscal 2021. This reduction results in limited capacity to even hire and train much-needed personnel and leaves no money to pay even a fraction of the required local match.”

Governor Bryan also is requesting that $300 million in Community Disaster Loans given to the Territory’s two hospitals and the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority as a result of the 2017 hurricanes be forgiven.

“Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Territory was likely to qualify for loan cancellation under the terms of the CDL promissory notes, as well as under applicable regulations,” the Governor wrote. “The fiscal crisis resulting from the pandemic makes the need for cancellation even more urgent. The Government cannot afford to take revenue desperately needed for the current crisis and use it to fund debt service from the previous one.”

Single-Car Accident on Queen Mary Highway Leaves STX Man Injured

November22, 2020

ST. CROIX, USVI – On November 22 at roughly 1:12 a.m., the 911 Emergency Call Center dispatched Traffic Investigation Bureau officers to the Queen Mary Highway, in refence to a one- car automobile accident near the St. Croix Educational Complex High School.

The investigation revealed that the 30-year-old male driver of a black 2008 Honda Accord was traveling westbound when he lost control of the vehicle and collided into a tree. Speed may have contributed to the accident and the and the driver may not have been wearing his seat belt. The driver was transported to the Juan Francisco Luis Hospital & Medical Center for injury-related treatment.

VIPD continues to investigate the cause of this vehicle accident.

St. Croix Oil Spill Cleanup: pollution teams are monitoring clean-up operations, over 1500 gallons retrieved so far

November 19, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands — Coast Guard pollution teams are monitoring clean-up operations to recover discharged oil from the partially sunken and abandoned tugboat Cape Lookout within Krause Lagoon in St. Croix.

“The National Response Corporation in the U.S. Virgin Islands has been hired as the Oil Spill Removal Organization that will be conducting oil recovery and clean-up operations for the Cape Lookout,” said Lt. Cory Woods, Coast Guard Resident Inspection Office St. Croix supervisor. “Our primary objective is to remove this pollution threat and help the affected area and environment return to its pristine state as soon as possible.”

Since oil recovery operations began Tuesday afternoon, clean-up crews from the National Response Corp. have recovered approximately 1,500 gallons of oily water of the material discharged from the vessel.

National Response Corp. crews have also placed new containment and absorbent boom around the vessel to keep the discharged oil contained and facilitate its recovery, and they are using an oil waste vacuum truck and oil skimmers to recover the oil from the water.

The National Response Corp. has also subcontracted Resolve Marine to assess and conduct the recovery of oil, fuel or potential hazardous materials that remain inside the Cape Lookout.

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 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.

Anyone with relevant information on this case may contact the Sector San Juan Command Center at 787-289-2041.

Governor Bryan Facilitates Associations Health Plan for Small Business Owners and Their Employees

November 16, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. is creating a new path for hardworking Virgin Islanders to access health care coverage by promoting choice and competition in the territory, and by strengthening the negotiating power with providers from larger risk pools through an Associations Health Plan.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor expanded access to affordable health coverage options for small businesses and their employees through Associations Health Plans. It allows small employers to band together, based on common geography or industry, to purchase the types of coverage that are available to large employers, which can be less expensive and better tailored to the needs of their employees. It also allows working owners without other employees to join the association.

“When you consider our demographics – 106,000 individuals living in the Virgin Islands with a median income of $25,000, 32.5 percent living in poverty, and 28.7 percent of our residents uninsured, you can understand why this effort is so critical,” Governor Bryan said. “That’s a significant portion of our population without access to private health insurance, and it comes at a cost to the government in the form of unpaid and uncompensated care.”

The Office of the Governor has been working over the past several months to facilitate the Associations Health Plan for small businesses territorywide, including identifying and vetting health insurance carriers that could provide coverage to the Associations Health Plan members. Five organizations have opted in – the St. Thomas- St. John Chamber of Commerce, the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce, the USVI Hotel and Tourism Association, the VI Bar Association, and the VI Realtor Association.

Three insurance carriers in the USVI were considered – United Healthcare, Cigna, and Elan Insurance Group. Of the three, only Elan Insurance Group could meet the needs of the Associations Health Plan, offering a plan that is more affordable with minimal essential services.

This month, Governor Bryan convened a meeting between Associations Health Plan members and Mr. Omar Heado, President of Elan Insurance Group, who presented the types of health insurance coverage that would be available to the members and their employees through a customized health plan.

“The governor is very concerned that 28.7 percent of our population does not have health insurance and he has been seriously considering moving to some form of universal coverage,” said Dr. Julia Sheen, Health and Human Services Policy Advisor to Governor Bryan. “The first phase was the expansion of Medicaid which was very successful. We moved from covering 12,000 individuals to 32,000 on Medicaid. The second phase is to move to Associations Health Plans, where you have low to middle income individuals who do not have health insurance, but also do not qualify for Medicaid because it is income-based.”

In 2013, following the findings of a two-year study conducted by a Health Reform Implementation Task Force, the US Virgin Islands opted out of establishing a health care exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The task force cited the health care law’s lack of adequate funding to create an exchange, and the exemption of some of its most important provisions, including the individual mandate, to insular territories. However, the Territory was afforded the option of accepting additional funding to expand its Medicaid program – which it did.

Today, the Office of the Governor will launch two surveys, one for Associations Health Plan employers and the other for their employees, to gain a better understanding of the number of persons who require health insurance coverage. The surveys include questions about demographics, location, type of industry, number of employees, employment status, access to health care, insurance coverage and affordability, and interest in the Associations Health Plan.

“We are looking at what kind of health insurance coverage is needed and any barriers in obtaining health insurance,” Dr. Sheen said. “We do not want to create health insurance packages that workers cannot afford.” Both groups have until December 18, 2020, to complete and submit the survey. “This effort will increase access to health insurance coverage for business owners and their employees, increase access to healthcare services and ultimately improve health outcomes,” Governor Bryan said. “Everyone should have some form of health insurance even if it’s just the basic.”

The Associations Health Plan is part of Governor Bryan’s Healthier Horizons Initiative, which includes 10 other projects, to improve the healthcare system by broadening the scope of health services provided, by increasing patient access to quality care and by hardening our healthcare infrastructure.

Governor Bryan Thanks Veterans Past and Present For Their Service to Uphold Democracy and Freedom

November 11, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has issued a statement thanking the Territory’s current and past veterans for their service in the Armed Forces to uphold the freedoms that Virgin Islanders and all Americans enjoy.

“There are few things more noble than a man or woman choosing to dedicate themselves to serving in the military and protecting our country, our democracy and our freedom,” Governor Bryan said. “On behalf of First Lady Yolanda Bryan and myself and the residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands, I am grateful and honored for the sacrifices our veterans have made, and continue to make, to stand as the front line of the defense of our lives, liberties and happiness. God bless you and God bless the Virgin Islands.”

Because of the inclement weather expected for the, the motorcades planned for Wednesday, November 11, have been cancelled. A ceremony for this year's honorees – Oscar R. James on St. John, Romeo A. Malone on St. Thomas and Abraham Hewitt on St. Croix – will take place at a later date.

Governor Bryan Extends Congratulations to President-Elect Joseph Biden, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris

November 7, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Bryan issued the following statement Saturday congratulating President-elect Joseph Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris:

“Outside the historical implications of today’s election results, the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is cause for celebration for many across this country and especially for us here in the territory. As an African American with Caribbean roots, Kamala Harris, becoming the first woman elected as Vice President of the United States, represents a proud moment, and sends the message that there are no bounds to what young women of color can achieve.

“It also inspires, again, the belief in the design of our democracy and that the full promise of America can be achieved when we all have the opportunity to participate. I expect that our nation under the leadership of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will begin the work of repairing the deep-seated divisions in our country that have been exacerbated by the politics over the past few years.

“For us here locally, A Biden-Harris Administration is promising, as President-elect Biden has a personal connection to the U.S. Virgin Islands and understands the issues confronting our community. We consider him our hometown president. We will continue to work diligently with the current administration on our recovery and other federal priorities and are excited to continue that work with the Biden-Harris Administration.”

Government House Clarifies Misinformation About Reopening of Bars and Nightclubs

November 6, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — In response to rumors and misinformation about the reopening of bars and nightclubs, as well as the guidelines and restrictions pertaining to restaurant operations, Government House is clarifying those guidelines and restrictions as outlined in Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s 19th Supplemental Executive Order.

The 19th Supplemental Executive Order, as well as all the Executive Orders the Governor has issued pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, can be found at vi.gov.

*Beginning November 9, 2020, Bars and Nightclubs are allowed to reopen pursuant to the following conditions:

For SEATED service only, pursuant to the COVID-19 GUIDANCE FOR RESTAURANTS, BARS AND NIGHTCLUBS, in the Eighth Supplemental Executive Order issued on May 30, 2020, as amended by the Executive Orders.

NO patrons shall be allowed to congregate standing around the bar counter area. There shall be no sitting and no serving of alcohol at bar counters. Patrons seated at tables in designated seating areas may order food AND/OR alcohol. No seating of more than 6 persons per table Allocated seating must be within the social distancing guidelines of 6 feet away from other tables. No sale or distribution of alcohol from 11:00 p.m. until 8:00 a.m. daily. No patrons are allowed in the establishment from 12 midnight until 6 a.m. daily. Masks and facial coverings are required in all bars and nightclubs, except when patrons are seated at their designated tables. The use of pool tables is permitted with facial coverings worn at all times. Hand sanitizers should be made accessible to all players. The pool sticks and surrounding areas must be disinfected after each game. Live music and DJ entertainment is allowed in licensed establishments pursuant to the COVID-19 GUIDANCE FOR RESTAURANTS, BARS AND NIGHTCLUBS, in the Eighth Supplemental Executive Order issued on May 30, 2020, as amended. Occupancy in the establishment is 50% of the regular occupancy capacity set by their business license or the Fire Marshall prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, or 100 customers, whichever is less, based on which temporary occupancy certificates may be issued. Cabarets shall remain CLOSED.

Governor Bryan Says Reopening of Bars and Nightclubs Next Week Is Next Step in Relaxing Restrictions as Pandemic Continues

November 4, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During the Government House weekly COVID-19 press briefing, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said the reopening of the Territory’s bars and nightclubs – which becomes effective on Monday, November, 9 – is the next step in relaxing existing restrictions and finding ways to move forward during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin and Sports, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Calvert White also gave a briefing about a special collaboration between their respective agencies – as well as the Department of Health – to offer student athletes an opportunity to be considered for athletic scholarships as the Territory navigates the pandemic.

The commissioners have developed a “Student Sports Combine in a Bubble” as a free, safe and secure way to provide top student athletes with an opportunity to demonstrate their skills for recruiting, expectations and compliance for NCAA and NAIA institutions of higher learning. The “Combine in a Bubble” exhibition sessions will be videotaped as the athletes perform a variety of sports drills, trainings and scrimmage games, and the tapes will be shared with colleges, recruiters and scouts.

“We understand that it is necessary to find a way to live with the presence of this contagious and deadly virus,” Governor Bryan said. “Our COVID-19 Task Force had a really spirited conversation about the need to provide safe social outlets, especially for our young people. We have done so systematically for the churches, restaurants, movie theaters and casinos. We are now looking at sports and beginning to talk about night-time entertainment.”

Governor Bryan said he met with a delegation of bar and nightclub owners to talk about implementing an initial set of restrictions, and officials will monitor them to see if they are effective in containing the spread of the virus.

“As a reminder, the enforcement penalties established in Section 3 in the 15th Supplemental Executive Order issued on August 28 will continue in full effect,” the Governor said. “The fines include $1,000 per attendee who violates the current mass gathering guidelines and $5,000 per organizer of any such prohibited mass gathering event.”

The Governor also addressed the practice of having parties aboard boats rafted together, which is prohibited under the 12th Supplemental Executive Order and carries a penalty of a $1,000 fine per incident or the confiscation of the vessel.

“I want you to know that it is just as easy to catch the virus during a mass gathering with people on a boat as it is on shore,” Governor Bryan said. “I want to discourage people from attending parties and other gatherings at sea. If you are going boating, which is permissible, you should still practice safe social distancing and wear a mask when it makes sense to do so.”

The Governor also reiterated the requirements and restrictions regarding travel, urging residents to avoid non- essential travel and reminding them that residents, in addition to tourists and other visitors, are required to submit testing results received within five days of returning to the USVI.

“Virgin Islanders traveling back and forth are also contacting and transporting the virus,” Governor Bryan said. “The testing requirement will be strictly enforced for all travelers age 5 and older. We have made it very simple to upload your results, just visit USVITravelPortal.com and fill out the form.”

The Governor ended the weekly press briefing by congratulating the more than 20,000 residents who voted during this election cycle, as well as the winners of Tuesday’s election who will be in the 34th Legislature and Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, who heads into her fourth term in Congress.

Speaking to the future members of the 34th Legislature, Governor Bryan listed the unfinished business from the 33rd Legislature that still needs to be addressed:

• The merger of the Fire EMS service • The expansion of the authorization for the cannabis industry to generate tax revenues • Corporate and trust code amendments that will create a corporation as is enjoyed in Delaware • Legislation creating a comprehensive approach to mental health and developmental disabilities

The Governor also said he plans to reintroduce a measure to refinance the Internal Revenue Matching Fund bonds to realize savings to benefit the Government Employees’ Retirement System.

He also said he will send down to the Legislature the first part of a three-part comprehensive land and water use plan for the USVI.

“There’s lots of critical and urgent work to be done. As the campaign politics subside, the administration of public policy must come front and center,” Governor Bryan said. “I look forward to working with each one of you to continue the advancement the Virgin Islands has been making.”

Territory Celebrates D. Hamilton Jackson Day on Sunday, All Government Employees Required to Work Monday

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Pursuant to Title 1 VIC Sec. 171, November 1 is an official holiday in observance of D. Hamilton Jackson Day or Liberty Day.

However, when the holiday falls on a Sunday, as occurs this year, the Governor has discretion to grant administrative leave on the following Monday. Because government offices offering important services to the public will be closed on Tuesday, Election Day, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has chosen not to grant administrative leave this year on Monday, November 2.

Pursuant to Title 18 VIC Sec. 3, Election Day, which is on Tuesday, November 3, is a legal holiday.

Government Offices will be closed. For employees, public or private sector, who are required to work on Election Day, the V.I. Code requires that they must be granted two hours leave from work to vote.

Administration Urges Continued COVID Cautions, Social Distancing for Upcoming Holiday Season

October 26, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During the Government House weekly COVID-19 press briefing on Monday, Government House Communications Director Richard Motta Jr. and Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion said Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s COVID-19 Task Force is closely monitoring the surge of cases on the mainland and urged continued caution as residents head into the upcoming holiday season.

According to Director Motta, there are 21 states that have seen their COVID-19 infection rates increase by 10% or more from last week and local officials are making changes to COVID-19 protocols in the Territory as necessary.

“We are working to improve our screening of incoming travelers and amend our existing protocols in a manner to allow some semblance of normalcy while keeping the residents in our community safe,” he said.

Director Motta said the Territory has managed to keep the virus to a minimum in the community because of residents continued adherence to social distancing, wearing masks, washing their hands and using hand sanitizer.

While reporting the latest numbers related to COVID-19, Commissioner Encarnacion also gave specific advice to the public regarding Halloween parties and trick-or-treating.

“We are still in the midst of a pandemic, and we have to change the way we celebrate. You can still have a good time, but safety must come first,” she said.

The Commissioner cited CDC guidelines and activities people should avoid because they have the most likelihood of spreading the virus:

• Door-to-door traditional trick-or-treating • Trunk-or-treating events featuring groups of vehicles • Indoor functions, like haunted houses and costume parties

“We’ve actually gotten word that several organizations have planned and organized events like these. We will be contacting you personally, not to stop the events but to better guide you to ensure safety,” Commissioner Encarnacion said. “These events are usually crowded, and people may scream and spread particles in the air.”

The Department of Health also is advising residents to wash their hands and wear masks if they are preparing and/or giving out treats and that a costume mask is not an appropriate substitute against COVID-19.

Commissioner Encarnacion also encouraged residents who are planning to host a Halloween gathering or party to contact the Department of Health for guidance planning the event.

Governor Bryan Signs Bills Extending State of Emergency And Authorizing the GVI’s Purchase of property on St. Croix

Oct 23, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has signed two pieces of legislation, one extending the current State of Emergency and the other authorizing the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) to purchase property on St. Croix.

The 33rd Legislature passed Bill No. 33-0424 on October 6 authorizing an extension until December 8 to the State of Emergency that Governor Bryan declared in March as the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread throughout the Territory.

The Legislature passed Bill No. 33-0419 on September 30 approving the GVI’s purchase of two parcels totaling about 6 acres in Estate La Grange on St. Croix from Dr. Rafael Garcia for $282,187.

The land will be used to complete Phase II of the Frederiksted Economic Revitalization Project, which is an initiative to beautify and upgrade Frederiksted’s Tourism infrastructure while maintaining the historic town’s charm and cultural appearance.

Trump Administration Signs Agreement with U.S. Virgin Islands to Pursue a Land Exchange for New School on St. John

.U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The Trump Administration signed a preliminary agreement today to pursue a land swap between the National Park Service and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The agreement opens the door for local officials to finally achieve their long-standing effort to construct the first K-12 public school on St. John. Public education on St. John is currently only available through the eighth grade. In order to complete a high school education, students must commute by boat to St. Thomas each day during the school year.

“Today’s historic progress is long overdue,” said Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Rob Wallace. “It marks the first time the two governments have made a commitment to initiate the official process towards a final agreement. The Trump Administration and the U.S. Department of the Interior are determined to get this done for the people of St. John.”

“This preliminary agreement is a promissory note to the students of St. John,” said Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. “We need this land exchange to finally guarantee an excellent, safe education for all USVI students.”

“The Office of Insular Affairs team has worked hard to help facilitate the exchange of lands between the National Park Service and the Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and we are pleased to provide the necessary funding support and to help ensure successful next steps,” said Douglas W. Domenech, Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs. “We congratulate all parties for bringing this preliminary agreement to fruition to help benefit the students and families of St. John.”

In September 2020, the DOI Office of Insular Affairs provided $300,000 to the NPS to help fund the pre-requisite environmental compliance process to assess the impacts from actions associated with the exchange of lands on both people and resources. The environmental compliance process will evaluate the impacts of the intended use on cultural and natural resources as well as give the public ample opportunities to make their voice heard.

“We have waited a long time to get to this point, but there is more work to be done,” said Margaret Everson, Counselor to the Secretary, exercising the delegated authority of the National Park Service Director. “The National Park Service under the Trump Administration is glad to move efforts forward toward a commonsense solution that will help St. John families while continuing to honor our role as stewards of this special place entrusted to our care.”

Under the non-binding preliminary agreement, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) will work together over the next 12 months to fully evaluate the opportunity for a land swap. The proposed exchange involves an 11-acre parcel within Virgin Islands National Park and an 18-acre island currently owned by the territorial government that is surrounded by NPS land and waters. There will be multiple opportunities for the public to participate in the process and share their thoughts while the NPS and GVI work together on appraisals for the two parcels and complete environmental and historic preservation compliance requirements. The NPS will keep the public updated about public comment opportunities through the park’s website and social media.

For nearly three decades, the USVI and the U.S. government have discussed approaches to expanding education on St. John. Steps taken between 2012-2014 identified the 11-acre park parcel within the Catherineberg Estate as a possible location to support the island’s education needs. In November 2019, Governor Bryan offered the small island of Whistling Cay for consideration in an exchange, reenergizing negotiations.

Virgin Islands National Park was established in 1956 and encompasses about 60 percent of the island of St. John. Land for the park was gifted to the Federal government by Laurence S. Rockefeller for the purpose of establishing a national park.

Governor Bryan, USVI Economic Development Authority to Produce 20-Year Vision for Territorial Economy

October 20, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. today announced the commissioning of a 20-year economic development plan (Vision 2040) for the territory, seeking the input from a cross-section of residents in the territory as well as Virgin Islanders living on the U.S. mainland and elsewhere in the world.

Speaking at Government House on St. Croix, the Governor was joined by Wayne Biggs, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority (USVIEDA), the agency administering the federally funded plan.

The purpose of the plan -Vision 2040: Our Economy. Our Future (http://www.USVI2040.com) - is to create a roadmap for a diversified, self-sufficient, and prosperous economy for Virgin Islanders. Governor Bryan said that Vision 2040 will focus on economic advancement in five (5) key areas: Services, Technology, Energy, Agriculture, and Manufacturing (STEAM).

A major factor in crafting the Territory’s 20-year plan will be the involvement of residents. “For this 20-year plan to be realized, we’ll need the input and participation of all Virgin Islanders,” said Governor Bryan. He encouraged all residents in the territory and abroad to complete the survey found at www.usvi2040.com.

In addition to the surveys, the information gathering process will include interviews with stakeholders on each island, virtual open houses, town hall meetings, focus groups, task force meetings, and technical strategies. A schedule of events and activities can be found at www.usvi2040.com. Additionally, the VIEDA will hold a variety of informational and participatory events.

The first virtual event begins with a Public Presentation on Thursday, October 22nd at 6 pm, where Virgin Islanders can learn more about Vision 2040 and members of the project’s team will be available to answer questions. Go to www.usvi2040.com to login to the Zoom or connect online at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83152153726 with meeting ID: 831 5215 3726 or listen by phone using the dial-in phone number 646-558-8586 and input the meeting ID: 831 5215 3726 to join. A virtual interactive Open House will follow on Thursday, November 5th; login details can be found at www.usvi2040.com.

After a competitive bidding process, the USVIEDA selected Camoin 310, a national economic development firm with headquarters in Saratoga, NY, and Richmond, Virginia to manage the project. Camoin will help the USVIEDA develop a territorial vision for the next two decades, laying out the short- and long-term initiatives and strategies for accomplishing the desired results.

Upon the completion of a comprehensive examination of the current Virgin Islands’ economy – and consideration of the impact of the pandemic – The USVIEDA’s Vision 2040 plan will provide concrete economic initiatives to include eco-tourism, light manufacturing, technology, financial services, and agriculture. It will also outline needed improvements in areas ranging from energy and communications infrastructure to education, training, public safety, and government responsiveness, that have a direct effect on doing business in the Territory.

Camoin 310, in business since 1999, has delivered over 1,000 projects for economic development entities in 41 U.S. states. The firm’s team for the Virgin Islands project is being led by Dan Gundersen, Principal, and Senior Vice President. Prior to his work with Camoin, Gundersen headed economic development operations for the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and, most recently Virginia.

Among the team members for the project are two seasoned economic development professionals with ties to St. Croix, Rob DeRocker, and Mark Waterhouse. Playing a key communications role for the project will be Nykole Tyson, a native Virgin Islander and President of NT Media Productions which has served multiple private and public sector clients throughout the USVI and beyond.

Camoin 310’s day-to-day work will be monitored by Shanell Petersen, USVIEDA’s Managing Director for Marketing and 2040 Vision. The plan is being funded by the U.S. Economic Development Agency as part of the federal recovery grants following the devastating Irma and Maria Hurricanes of 2017. The final Vision 2040 plan will be delivered at the end of February 2021, with an interim report in early January.

Government House Announces Resignation of Finance Commissioner

October 20, 20

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Department of Finance Commissioner Kirk Callwood on Monday notified Governor Albert Bryan Jr. of his resignation as Commissioner of Finance and as Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority.

Governor Bryan asked for Commissioner Callwood’s resignation after learning that the commissioner undertook an initiative without proper authorization as established by the policies and protocols of the Government of the Virgin Islands.

In an effort to recognize employees, the commissioner issued payment stipends to his rank and file staff without proper authorization. While the amounts were within his allotted budget, the action was not previously approved.

Governor Bryan said Tuesday that he is pursuing the implementation of updated procedures that will prevent the reoccurrence of this action.

“While all of our employees deserve to be recognized, we must do so in accordance with our established policies and procedures,” Governor Bryan said. “We will examine all of our established policies as they relate to this type of employee compensation and make the improvements where necessary to ensure this does not happen again.”

“I am grateful for Commissioner Callwood’s service during his tenure. He was a valued member of our financial team and an integral part of the success in fiscal management that we have had to this point. I wish him well in his future endeavors,”

Governor Bryan added. The governor accepted Commissioner Callwood’s resignation effective immediately and named Assistant Commissioner Clarina Modeste as Acting Commissioner of Finance.

Health Commissioner Advises Against Any Unnecessary Travel As COVID-19 Cases Continue to Surge on the U.S. Mainland

October 19, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During the Government House weekly COVID-19 press briefing, Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion urged Virgin Islanders to avoid traveling unless it is necessary because of the continuing surge of cases in the U.S. mainland.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic changes, we continue to adjust to those changes and implement local mitigation efforts to reduce the risk to our community. Hence, as commissioner of Health, I am advising against nonessential travel due to increases of COVID-19 cases in the United States mainland,” Commissioner Encarnacion said. “As we all know, travel increases your chances of getting COVID-19; staying home is still the best way to protect yourself and others.”

The commissioner said that while residents are strongly discouraged from traveling, she understands there are some cases when traveling is a necessity.

“If you must travel and you do not get tested at your destination, you will be referred to a local lab for testing three to five days after return and required to quarantine until you receive the test results,” Commissioner Encarnacion said. “If you must travel, please use the guidelines you are so familiar with. We live in such a beautiful place in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is a popular travel destination, especially as it gets cold in other parts of the world.”

Commissioner Encarnacion also reiterated that all visitors to the Territory age 5 and older must produce either a negative COVID-19 antigen molecular PCR rapid test from a test taken within five days of arriving in the Virgin Islands or a positive COVID-19 antibody test result taken within four months of arrival.

Department of Human Services Recognizes National Disability Employment Awareness Month During October

October 14, 2020

 

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS— The Department of Human Services, Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Program, is seeking to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the many contributions of Virgin Island employers, community partners and trailblazers that support and honor courageous workers with disabilities. This year marks a major milestone in the nation’s history; it is not only the 75th observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), but the 30th anniversary of the American Disability Act, ADA and 100 years since the establishment of the Vocational Rehabilitation Program.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month is celebrated across the United States to help eliminate the barriers that limit opportunities for educational and economic advancement for workers challenged by disabilities. Over the past century, with the help of the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, persons with disabilities across the United States have found meaningful work opportunities. These opportunities not only positively impact an individual’s income but serves to boost their confidence and ability to live independent lives.

The Virgin Islands Vocational Rehabilitation Program launched its first ever online work readiness training program this summer, and services will continue for qualifying students throughout the school year. Additionally, the program is working to reactivate the Randolph Sheppard Program in the U. S. Virgin Islands. The Randolph Sheppard Program is a Business Entrepreneurial Program for persons that are legally blind that authorizes operation of vending and concession facilities on federal property. In conjunction with a private provider, the program also provides job coaching and ongoing support for the significantly disabled. This is just one example of the many initiatives and services available through the VR Program.

The Department of Human Services encourages all to help celebrate the milestones of the national Vocational Rehabilitation Program by reaching out to someone who has a disability and expressing a little extra support and encouragement for their journey. For those with a disability seeking employment, and for those who may know someone seeking employment, please contact the DHS - Vocational Rehabilitation Program today. The Program offers employment related services that include:

• Transition planning for high school students with disabilities to assist with adequately preparing for post-secondary education and competitive employment. • Vocational counseling • Evaluation & training • Job placement • Assistance with resume writing and many other services

DHS - Vocational Rehabilitation Program • St. Croix: (340)643-8145 or (340)626-6268 • St. Thomas / St. John (340)774-0930 or (340)244-7861

Hospital Board Approves Architecture and Engineering Designs For Hospitals, Myrah Keating Clinic and Kimelman Institute

October 13, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Territorial Hospital Board on Tuesday approved the architecture and engineering designs for the Territory’s primary health care facilities, Luis Hospital on St. Croix; Schneider Regional Medical Center and the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute on St. Thomas and the Myrah Keating Smith Clinic on St. John.

The board voted unanimously to award design contracts to three different firms for the four projects. The design phase for these four projects could take anywhere from 6 to 18 months, according to Schneider Hospital’s Vice President of Facilities Management Darryl Smalls, who was named by the Board to oversee the process.

The board approved:

• $12,948,272 for Flad & Associates to design Luis Hospital • $5,870,000 for EYP Architects to design Schneider Hospital • $936,000 for EYP Architects and Engineers to design the Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute • $1,529,770 for SMITHGROUP to design the Myrah Keating Smith Clinic

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is covering 90% of the cost, with a 10% local match that will be paid for with Community Development Block Grant funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a result of the 2017 hurricanes.

“The unanimous vote by the Territorial Board of the Hospitals in conjunction with the direct collaboration with the Executive Branch of the Government of the Virgin Islands, exemplifies the commitment to the citizens of this Territory that Healthcare is paramount,” Vice President Smalls said. “As the person designated to lead this effort, it is indeed an honor and a privilege. I pledge my commitment to the citizens of this territory that my Team and I will be fiscally responsible in designing and constructing resilient, state of the art Hospitals and Medical Facilities which will serve our community for many years to come.”

According to JFL Interim Chief Executive Officer, Dyma Williams, the JFL Project Team began collaborating in October 2019 with healthcare architectural and engineering experts to draft a technically sound RFP for the design of the new hospital, inclusive of healthcare innovations and industry standards.

Governor Bryan Eases Some COVID-19 Restrictions

October 13, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his weekly COVID-19 press briefing, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced he is easing some of the restrictions in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the Territory. His announcement comes after the Territory’s rate of positivity for the virus had decreased significantly.

Effective immediately, churches and houses of worship are allowed to accommodate 50% of their capacity or a maximum of 100 persons, whichever is less. Effective immediately, the requirement for the use of disposable dishes, utensils, napkins and drink containers has been suspended. Effective November 9, mass gatherings will increase to no more than 100 persons for indoor and outdoor activities or 50% of the capacity. Effective November 9, bars that cannot accommodate sit down service will remain closed and all bars and nightclubs in the Territory shall be allowed to open for seated service only. No patrons shall be allowed to congregate standing around the bar counter area. Patrons seated in designated sitting areas may order food, alcohol or both, and those sitting must be adequately spaced according to the Department of Health guidelines. Effective November 9, live music and disc jockey entertainment will be allowed in licensed establishments but shall not be permitted after midnight.

“We are slowly getting back to normalcy, but we can’t rush it,” Governor Bryan said. “Let’s take this next step and see if we can sustain it without compromising the public health. Of course, we need your continued cooperation.”

Governor Bryan also implored residents to take an active role in battling the violent crime that pervades the community.

“We have to stand as one people to establish wrong from right and discontinue our silent overlooking of wrong that happens in our community,” Governor Bryan said. “Whether it’s an illegal horse track, drag racing, prostitution, loitering, gaming houses, an illegal numbers game or trespassing, it is time for us to stand as a community and say, ‘No more.’”

“All these little things are breeding grounds and havens for larger criminal activity,” the Governor said. “We are going to push back on all this activity aggressively and we hope we have your support.”

Governor Bryan signs FY2021 Budget Bills

October 12, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Friday signed the bills comprising the Fiscal Year 2021 Executive Budget, which includes $632,390,556 for the General Fund.

In his transmittal letter to Senate President Novelle Francis Jr., Governor Bryan said he used his line-item veto to correct a duplication of the appropriation for WTJX. The Governor also noted a number of discrepancies and errors in the itemized budget and said amendments are required to make adjustments to reconcile those discrepancies.

“The funding for WTJX is already appropriated in the Miscellaneous appropriations subsection on Page 9 as line item ‘MIS15 WTJX PUBLIC TELEVISION $3,627,111,’” the Governor wrote. “In addition to this line item, several critical errors have been identified and will need immediate amendments in order to allow the Government of the Virgin Islands to operate appropriately.”

The Governor also noted that Bill No. 33-0405, which appropriates funding for salaries and expenses for the University of the Virgin Islands, also requires a critical amendment to reconcile a major fund sourcing error.

“Section 1 of the Bill incorrectly states that the $25,225,458 appropriated is ‘out of any available funds’ instead of stating ‘the General Fund,’” Governor Bryan wrote. “Additionally, the total amount appropriated to the University of the Virgin Islands out of the General Fund on page 4 of the Bill incorrectly states ‘$34,366,559’ instead of the correct total of ‘$34,336,559.’”

Health Commissioner Issues Public Health Order Prohibiting Live Bands at Outdoor Events

October 9, 2020.

US VIRGIN ISLANDS — Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion on Friday issued a Public Health Order prohibiting live bands at outdoor events and clarifying guidelinesfor DJ performances and food and alcoholsales.

The Order prohibits live bands at outdoor events from Saturday, October 10, through Friday, November 6 and sets parameters for DJ performances.

Commissioner Encarnacion issued the order on Thursday, October 8, and Governor Albert Bryan Jr. affirmed it with his signature on Friday, October 9.

According to the Health Commissioner:

• Gatherings that exceed 50 persons, including, but not limited to, political campaign events or meetings, concerts, parties, cultural events, and other gatherings are prohibited; • Gatherings of less than 50 persons shall be allowed but must observe all social-distancing principles and wearing of facial coverings, in compliance will all mandates of the Sixteenth Supplemental Executive Order issued by the Governor of the Virgin Islands on September 8, 2020, as amended and supplemented. • Live bands are prohibited at any outdoor event from Saturday, October 10, 2020, until Friday November 6, 2020; • Single person DJ performance shall be allowed within the parameters of this Order and the Sixteenth Supplemental Executive Order issued by the Governor of the Virgin Islands on September 8, 2020, as amended and supplemented. The DJ must be set up with a minimum space of ten (10) feet between the DJ and Patrons/Attendees using social distancing principles. • Pursuant to VI Law and this Order, the sale of food is prohibited without a current health card. • Pursuant to VI Law and this Order, the sale of alcohol is prohibited without a current liquor license issued by the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs or a special permit issued by the Commissioner of the Police Department.

Violators may be penalized as follows: • $1000 per participant for violation of the mass gathering prohibitions • $5000 per organizer of any mass gathering that violates the prohibitions • Immediate closure of the event.

Governor Bryan Names Marvin Pickering To Head Casino Control Commission

October 9, 2020

.U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has nominated former Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Director Marvin Pickering to be the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Casino Control Commission. 

In addition to his role as the BIR director from 2015-2019, Mr. Pickering was a senior vice-president and chief financial officer for Cruzan Viril Ltd. For 17 years.

Mr. Pickering was born on St. Thomas and attended Charlotte Amalie High School before earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration and an Associate of Arts degree in Business Administration from the College of the Virgin Islands, now the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI).

He currently sits on the board of Junior Achievement of the Virgin Islands, and he has served on the board of the V.I. Water and Power Authority; the Board of Trustees of the St. Croix Landmarks Society; the board of the Foundation for UVI; and the Boards of Trustees for Good Hope School and St. Dunstan’s Episcopal School.

The Casino Control Commission was established to “develop and implement a regulatory framework that permits and promotes the stability and continuity of casino gaming in the territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands,” according to its website.

Mr. Pickering’s nomination will next go before the Senate, and if it is approved, Acting Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Usie Richards would return to a regular board seat.

Government House Clarifies Status of Evictions in the Territory

October 6, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — In response to inquiries from residents about the status of evictions between landlords and renters, Government House would like to clarify what the situation currently is.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s order suspending the provisions of Title 28, Chapter 13 of the V.I. Code, relating to landlord-tenant actions and establishing the right of actions to recover possession of real property, demand for rent or for forceable entry and detainer expired on September 27, 2020. This expiration applies to both residential and commercial tenants.

Separate from the Governor’s executive order, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an order temporarily halting residential evictions to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 on September 4, 2020. The CDC order continues in effect until December 31, 2020, and applies to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

Senator Gittens:Members of 33rd Legislature block effort to stop Senate raises

September 30, 2020

ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - Senator Kenneth L. Gittens said that 10 members of the 33rd Legislature of the Virgin Islands voted to shut down Wednesday’s Legislative Session by removing the last item on the agenda in order to block an amendment that would untie Senators’ salaries to that of the lowest paid Commissioner.

Failure to act on this amendment means that Senators will give themselves an automatic pay raise.

“I cannot support a salary increase for senators at this time given the level of economic uncertainty we face in the Territory and I certainly would oppose any increase for senators until such time as we have found a way to address the shortfall at GERS,” Senator Gittens said.

Senator Gittens and two of his colleagues signed on to an amendment drafted by Senator Javan James Sr. striking language in the Virgin Islands Code tying senators’ salaries to the lowest paid Executive Branch Commissioner. Given that the Territory’s lowest paid Commissioner recently received a $15,000 pay raise, so too, would Virgin Islands senators.

Amendment #33-141 was to be attached to another bill on Wednesday’s agenda that 10 senators voted to hold rather than acting on, in order to prevent Senator Gittens and the three other senators from proposing their legislation to block the senate salary increase.

“If they wanted a raise, let them vote on our amendment publicly,” Senator Gittens said. “But rather than do that, these 10 senators shut down the Legislative Session. I am deeply disappointed in what transpired today."

Senators Oakland Benta and Dwayne DeGraff also signed on to Amendment #33-141.

Governor Bryan Issues Statement On Status of Securitization Transaction

September 28, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — As Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, I want to advise our citizens and our investors that the anticipated transaction set forth in Act No. 8329 and Act No. 8330 related to the Matching Fund Securitization Corporation (Special Purpose Vehicle) in which we sought to refinance and significantly reduce the territory’s debt for interest costs savings has been suspended.

Despite the great interest initially demonstrated by potential bondholders, this decision became necessary given the negative impact of ill-intentioned litigation deliberately filed in the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands on the eve of bond pricing and closing.

Additionally, changes on September 18th to the ratifying legislation created uncertainties and deprived us of the opportunity to successfully re-enter the market and close before the authorization’s sunset date on September 29th as required by law.

 

 transaction was intended to improve cash flow, in part, from reducing the debt service payment of $85 million on USVI bonds due october 1st. This was always the critical event that dictated the  timeline. That debt service payment is still due on October 1st and will be paid on schedule.

 

 

Pandemic-EBT Issuance Deadline, Monday September 28, Announced by USVI Department of Human Services

September 25, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS— The Department of Human Services (DHS) today announced that all parents and guardians of children who attended schools that participated in the federally funded, School Lunch Program need to call the P-EBT Hotline if they have not received the P-EBT card or cards they were expecting for children enrolled in eligible schools during the 2019 and 2020 school year.

The deadline for issuance of benefits for the 2019 / 2020 school year is Monday, September 28, 2020. Commissioner Causey-Gomez posted a link to Facebook with a video recording detailing the deadline.

The SNAP offices on St. Croix and St. Thomas said they still have unclaimed P-EBT cards in their offices. Cards were all mailed out to parents and guardians of eligible children as of September 15, 2020. However, some cards were returned as, “undeliverable” to the SNAP offices.

Please take note of the following:

If your child did not receive a card or if all your child(ren’s) benefits were not loaded onto your current SNAP card, please immediately contact the P-EBT Hotline at (340)772- 7120 or email pebt@dhs.vi.gov. ➢ While the SNAP office will continue to work to resolve issues, no new issuances for the 2019/2020 school year can be made after this Monday, September 28. ➢ If you have been contacted to come to the SNAP offices to pick up a card(s), we urge you to come to the office and claim the benefits.

 

Governor Bryan Updates Public on COVID Testing at VI Airports

September 21, 2020

.U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said Monday, during his weekly press conference, that the pilot phase for COVID testing at the territory’s airports began this weekend.

In June, the VI Department of Tourism created a portal where travelers can upload negative tests prior to travel into the territory. Since then, the VI Department of Health (DOH), working with the VI National Guard (VING), has also stepped up screening protocols at VI airport terminals. The added screening protocols include testing at the airports which is currently in its pilot phase.

This past weekend DOH tested 34 incoming passengers – six at the Cyril E. King Airport and 29 at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport. As a result, the DOH identified and isolated a COVID positive traveler who was a local Virgin Islander returning to St. Croix.

“As we move forward into the holiday season, we will continue to monitor closely the efficacy of these increased protocols,” Governor Bryan said.O

n Saturday, the moratorium was lifted on leisure travel bookings for hotels, guest houses, Airbnb’s and other related lodging businesses, as well as for guest check-in at these establishments.

“I know this step forward makes many in our community nervous and apprehensive,” Governor Bryan said. “But I want to assure you all that we are taking this step forward with the utmost care and caution and have taken the time since our last reopening to put in place added protocols to help protect our community.”

Governor Bryan also reminded the public that all travelers to the territory, including local Virgin Islanders returning home, are required to provide proof of a negative COVID test taken within five days prior to travel into the territory.

“I want to be clear this is all travelers into the territory,” Governor Bryan said. “It doesn’t matter where you are coming from.”

 

PUI Update

As of Monday, 64 active cases of COVID-19 in the territory: • 19,314 individuals tested (up 960 from last week) • 18,043 of those negative • 1269 came back positive. • 1,186 of those individuals who have tested positive since March have successfully recovered. There are no COVID-positive patients at the Juan Luis Hospital, but there are five COVID- positive patients in the Schneider Regional Medical Center.

Territory Reopens to Leisure Travel Visitors on Saturday

September 18, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The territory will reopen to leisure travelers tomorrow, Saturday, September 19th , however, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. is reminding the public that the territory remains in the Safer at Home phase of the COVID-19 pandemic response.

On Saturday Sept. 12, “we allowed hotels and other guest lodgings to begin accepting reservations and tomorrow, Sept. 19, they will once again be able to accept and check-in visitors,” Governor Bryan said. “But I want to remind the public we are still in the Safer at Home Phase in our reopening strategy.”

“While the decline in the COVID-19 active cases and hospitalizations are welcome signs of our progress in slowing the spread of this virus, we continue to take all the necessary precautions to avoid having an uncontrollable surge in cases particularly in our daycares, schools and congregate living facilities,” he said.

Today, the VI Department of Health reported 49 active cases. To date, 18,980 individuals have been tested, with 17,440 negative results and 1,232 positives.

During the current Safer at Home Phase, restaurants are allowed to return to limited in-house dining and service, but are prohibited from allowing patrons to congregate around bar counter areas and from serving alcohol at bar counters.

In addition, all bars, nightclubs, and cabarets remain closed. Visitation at nursing home facilities is strictly prohibited. All public school campuses remain closed and private and parochial school campuses have been allowed to open only after a comprehensive assessment and approval from the VI Department of Health.

 

Governor Bryan Meets With 33rd Legislature Ahead of Special Session on Matching Fund Securitization

September 16, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr., members of his Financial and Advisory Teams and other senior advisors met with Senators of the 33rd Legislature on Tuesday to brief and answer questions the Senators may have prior to Thursday’s Special Session for the Senate to take action on the Governor’s proposed Matching Fund Securitization bill.

The Governor’s proposed legislation would establish the Matching Fund Securitization Corporation as an instrumentality of the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) used to refinance the GVI’s Matching Fund Bonds debt, marking the government’s re-entry into the bond market and creating a cash flow of $255 million over the next three years that can be used to shore up the Government Employee’s Retirement System and other needed projects.

Governor Bryan and his Team met with the Senators to ensure that they have full and accurate information on the Securitization Transaction, as they requested, previous to the Special Session scheduled for September 17.

“There has been a lot of misinformation surrounding the purpose of this financial transaction and how it will work,” Governor Bryan said. “Just as we did before the first Special Session, my Administration has pledged to be open and transparent about this legislation so Senators can feel confident in their support of it.”

The Matching Fund Securitization Act, which marks the USVI’s re-entry into the bond market for the first time in 11 years, can potentially create a revenue stream of $85 million for each of the next three years by reducing the Territory’s annual debt service on the Matching Funds Bonds. The Act would significantly increase cash flow and create a vehicle for the government’s future project needs, according to the Governor.

The Governor has said that while shoring up the Government Employees’ Retirement System remains a priority for the use of the funds, there are several potential uses and needs for the funds that will become available because of the refinancing.

“With this new revenue, we can create a closely monitored revolving fund that will help us get our projects moving faster,” Governor Bryan said. “We also still owe many of our employees and retirees’ money in retroactive pay and 8 percent. We have not forgotten. Ultimately the Legislature will have the purview to decide how this money is spent, but we must insist that the GERS be our utmost priority. The opportunity to refinance our existing longterm debt to achieve upfront savings and immediate cashflow is too great an opportunity to overlook.”

Governor Bryan, members of his Financial and Advisory Teams, and other senior advisors will meet again at 6 pm Wednesday to allow another opportunity to provide additional or follow-up information and answer further questions the Senators may have.

The Special Session is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, September 17.

VI welcomes back 661st Military Police Det. from deployment

September 13, 2020

Virgin Islands – The Virgin Islands National Guard welcomed home soldiers of the 661st Military Police Detachment from deployment at the Henry E. Rohlsen and Cyril E. King Airports on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020.

The unit spent approximately nine and a half months on their mission to support Operation Spartan Shield (Enduring Freedom). Their mission at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, was to provide Law and Order and Force Protection.

“I’m immensely proud of the 661st MP Detachment for their hard work and dedication to the mission in Qatar,” said Capt. Marcus Sydney, company commander.

“They have set the standards for other MP detachments to emulate. The Virgin Islands National Guard and the territory should be extremely proud of their accomplishments in representing the organization and the territory well.”

Due to the global pandemic with COVID-19, the MP unit supported additional missions that tasked them to con

duct physical security operations to quarantine locations and enforce the Department of Defense guidelines in COVID-19 mitigation.

The unit deployed back in October 2019 with 43 members, and successfully everyone made it back safely

"When this detachment deployed last October, I asked only one thing of them – that they continue to do their duty and make this Territory proud," stated Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. "We are so proud of these National Guard men and women for representing the US Virgin Islands and their country well. We’re so grateful for having them back home safe and sound and able to reunite with their families.” Before arriving to the territory, the unit members underwent a mandatory 14-day quarantine at Camp Westbrook, New Mexico part of Fort Bliss Mobilization station.

“We are happy to have our territory’s sons and daughters back home safely,” said Brig. Gen. Kodjo Knox-Limbacker, The Adjutant General. “They accomplished the mission. The 661st MP Detachment’s redeployment from supporting combat operations solidifies a ready, relevant, and responsive member of the Joint warfighting force.”

Due to COVID-19, the VING will postpone having a yellow ribbon ceremony to formally welcome back the deployed soldiers and schedule when it’s safe to do so.

The Virgin Islands National Guard Association (VINGA )Awards Scholarship to St. Croix Graduate

September 13, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands - The Virgin Islands National Guard Association (VINGA) recently awarded a $1,000 scholarship to Trey Francis at Estate Bethlehem, St. Croix, July 22, 2020.

Francis, an 18-year-old graduate of the St. Croix Central High School, plans to attend the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to pursue a degree in Business Administration and Political Science.

"I am very honored to have received this generous award in helping me to pursue my educational career," stated Francis.

He also plans to join NCAT's Air Force ROTC Program. VINGA annually offers to graduate high school students the opportunity to compete for two $1,000 scholarships and two laptops in honor of Lt. Col. David C. Canegata III, who died on duty while serving in Iraq, Jan. 20, 2007.

The association encourages more V.I. high school seniors to apply each year for these scholarship awards.

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

Governor Bryan Awards $30,000 Grant To Ten Thousand Helpers Organization

September 11, 2020

US VIRGIN ISLANDS –– Governor Albert Bryan Jr., on Friday, awarded Ten Thousand Helpers of St. Croix, a $30,000 grant to assist the St. Croix-based non-profit organization with its Fiscal Year 2021 operations.

Ten Thousand Helpers is a non-profit organization based in Frederiksted advocating for people who are homeless or suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues transition. The organization provides shelter, life skills programs and job training to help aid them in their transition back into society.

“Groups like Ten Thousand Helpers are the cornerstone of social services that are key in helping the government provide the care needed to all people of the community, and I am grateful for the good work they do,” Governor Bryan said. “My Administration is committed to maximizing social services in the Territory, particularly for persons experiencing homelessness, substance or alcohol abuse or developmental disabilities, and our non-profit organizations are instrumental in achieving that goal.”

In January, Governor Bryan submitted legislation to the 33rd Legislature to establish the , called the Virgin Islands Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Act, a sweeping and comprehensive reform of the mental health system that would unify the various parts of the V.I. Code, some dating back to 1965, into one cohesive system across Health, Human Services, Justice and other related agencies and departments.

The legislation also would establish the Territory’s first behavioral health, mental health, developmental disability and alcohol and substance abuse facility, and it will 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.

Ten Thousand Helpers was established in 2007 to recognize the devastating impact of mental illness on individuals, families and friends and recognize the isolation and social rejection that the condition triggers. The organization also operates the transitional facility Rainbow House in Frederiksted.

To become a volunteer or for more information, call 340-719-282 or 340-422-2828 or send an email to tenthousandhelpersofstcroixinc@gmail.com.

The USVI Department of Human Service’s Head Start Program Announces Start of Virtual School and Meal Distribution

September 5, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Head Start Program today announced that their 2020 /2021 Head Start school year will begin virtually on September 14, 2020, until it is determined that in-person instruction can safely resume.

To prepare for the launch of the virtual school year, Head Start staff will be contacting parents the week of September 7th for initial orientation and distribution of learning packets.

For the entire month of September, the Head Start program will utilize its “Learning at Home” approach. The virtual, “Learning at Home” approach will involve the following:

• Families will receive packages of developmentally appropriate activities and materials to work with young children at home. • Head Start teachers will contact families twice a week to provide guidance and support with the learning process. • Families with the required technology, will be able to access Head Start’s various learning platforms, including the High/Scope Preschool Curriculum, Hatch Early Learning and COR Advantage.

In order to continue to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and to keep staff and families safe, the USVI Head Start program has implemented the following mandatory guidelines for all facilities:

1. Face coverings are required for all staff members, clients, and vendors entering Head Start buildings. 2. Mandatory daily temperature screening for all staff members, clients, and vendors prior to entering the facility. 3. Increased, routine cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces, toys, and common areas. 4. Increased frequency of required handwashing. 5. Individualized used of toys, materials, and supplies in our classrooms. 6. Provision of Personal Protective Equipment for staff members. 7. Replace the family style meals with individualized servings in classrooms.

Meal Distribution Meal distribution for Head Start children will also begin on September 14, 2020. The distribution schedule will be as follows:

ST. THOMAS - Parents will pick up the packaged meals at their child(ren)’s Head Start Center: (Savan, Bergs Home, Sugar Estate, Wilhelm George and Bovoni) from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

ST. CROIX • Children who attend the Concordia Head Start Center will pick up meals on site between 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. • Children who attend the Anna’s Hope Head Start Center and Richmond Head Start Center will pick up their packaged meals at the Anna’s Hope Head Start Center between 10:30 a.m.- 11:30 a.m. • Children who attend the Frederiksted, Christiansted, and Kingshill Head Start Centers will pick up packaged meals at the curbside distribution spots.

HEAD START CURBSIDE SCHEDULE:

BUS ROUTE I DISTRIBUTION TIME (ALL TIMES A.M.) Estate Profit 10:45 John F. Kennedy 11:00 Ruby M. Rouss Housing (Water Gut) 11:30

BUS ROUTE II DISTRIBUTION TIME (ALL TIMES A.M.) Aureo Diaz Heights 10:30 Fredensborg 10:45 Harbor View Apartments 11:15

BUS ROUTE III DISTRIBUTION TIME (ALL TIMES A.M.) Lorraine Village Apartments 10:30 to 11:00 Croixville Apartments 11:10 Louis E. Brown Villas 11:20-11:30

BUS ROUTE IV DISTRIBUTION TIME (ALL TIMES A.M.) William’s Delight 10:30 -10:45

BUS ROUTE V-/SUV DISTRIBUTION TIME (ALL TIMES A.M.) Marley 10:30 Cane Break 10:30 Lagoon 10:45 Walter I.M. Hodge 11:00

DHS Head Start Registration The DHS-Head Start Program registration process is on-going throughout the year. Children must be three years old by December 31st. Parents must bring the child's birth certificate and proof of income that shows the family meets the federal guideline for income eligibility. Adults who are guardians must provide evidence of guardianship such as a court order. Parents of children with disabilities are especially encouraged to apply for enrollment.

Contact Information and Registration Portal

Feel free to create an account, if you have not already and apply through Head Start’s online portal (COPA) at https://vihs.mycopa.com/familyPortal/childCare.epl Questions for the Head Start office can be addressed at (340)773-1972 on St. Croix or (340)774-0930 ext. 4200 on St. Thomas. For additional information, please visit the Department of Human Services website, www.dhs.gov.vi or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/usvidhs) at US Virgin Islands Department of Human Services.

Reopening of Schools Postponed Until September 14, All School Campuses Remain Closed

August 31, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – During his weekly press briefing on Monday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. gave details about why he extended the “Stay-at-Home” order until September 8.

As a result of the Governor extending the current restrictions, the planned September 8 reopening of the Territory’s public schools has been pushed back to September 14, and all school campuses remain closed.

“While we are seeing a welcomed drop in the positivity rate, the number of infections attributed to community spread and the number of hospitalizations is not where we would like to see them,” Governor Bryan said. “Suffice to say, we believe the Stay-at-Home order has been effective in reducing the spread of the virus, and we look forward to relaxing those restrictions next week if these trends continue.”

The Governor also reminded residents that their compliance with the Stay-at-Home restrictions is vital to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“We simply ask that you all just do the right thing. The only way to get through this is to adhere to the health guidelines,” Governor Bryan said. “We will not beat COVID while attending parties, get-togethers and other mass gatherings or being in close quarters with individuals while not following the masking guidelines.

“It doesn’t matter if they are your friends or family. There is no way you can know their recent exposure to the virus,” the Governor said. “Be smart and be responsible. That is the only way you can guarantee your safety and the safety of the family members in your house.”

Delayed Opening of Schools

Governor Bryan’s decision to delay the opening of the schools means that all school campuses – including those of parochial and private schools – remain closed.

“The decision for this delay was to ensure the safety of our teachers, faculty and staff who were scheduled to return to our campuses this week,” Governor Bryan said. “However, the Department of Education continues to progress with its school reopening plans, and we are looking forward to a safe and successful start to what will be an unprecedented school year.”

Matching Fund Securitization

After thanking the eight members of the 33rd Legislature – Senate President Novelle Francis Jr. and Senators Alicia Barnes, Marvin Blyden, Allison DeGazon, Donna Frett-Gregory, Stedmann Hodge, Myron Jackson and Athneil “Bobby” Thomas – Governor Bryan addressed some of the misinformation about refinancing the bonds backed by the Internal Revenue Matching Fund.

“There has been a lot of misinformation placed on the record and shared in the community. That information has led some people to believe that this transaction carries greater risk than it actually does,” Governor Bryan said. “On its face, it is a simple refinancing of our bonds that is only complicated by the poor credit rating of the Government of the Virgin Islands.”

Last week’s Senate approval only authorizes the Bryan/Roach Administration to fully explore the opportunity with the necessary parties.

“The opportunity to refinance existing debt in a way that addresses our urgent financial needs is too promising to ignore,” Governor Bryan said. “At the very least, we believe we can present a plan that generates additional cash flow for the Government of the Virgin Islands for the next decade.”

P-EBT

The Department of Human Services has begun issuing P-EBT benefits to families with school-age children who qualified for the School Lunch Program. Students and families who are current SNAP recipients were among the first to receive P-EBT benefits, which were applied to their SNAP card balances. Physical cards are being mailed and should be received within the next two weeks. Cards have been sent to the addresses provided by the schools, and recipients.

“I want to assure the public that everyone who is entitled to this benefit will receive it,” Governor Bryan said.

 

St. Croix Judiciary Receives $1.5M for Damages from Hurricane Maria

August 31, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands- The Office of Disaster Recovery announces that the Judiciary of the Virgin Islands has received an obligation of $1,486,421 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance Program. These funds will cover renovations and the cost to replace the contents for multiple facets of the district’s operations, including both courthouses, vehicles, and the home of the Superior Court’s Rising Stars Steel Band Orchestra.

Severe winds and rain allowed water to collect at the Mars Hill “Panyard,” leading to irreparable damages. Most of the critical equipment needed to carry-out the orchestra’s tutorial and enrichment functions were destroyed.

The Superior Courthouse in Kingshill was the most impacted. The losses amassed to over $1M, encompassing interior and exterior repairs. Frederiksted’s Supreme Courthouse was also negatively impacted, incurring irreparable damages to the flooring on the second floor and the ADA elevator lift.

In order to safely continue the court’s vital operations on St. Croix, repairs were made in advance of FEMA’s obligation.

Regina Petersen, Administrator of Courts, explains, “The Judicial Branch Administrative Office had facilitated various repairs at all three facilities since the 2017 Hurricanes, starting with major remediation projects, and the replacement of damaged flooring, ceiling tiles, carpets, cubicles, furniture, fencing, and an elevator lift. In addition to the replacement of and/or repair of 13 of 26 damaged vehicles.” She continued to say, “The obligation and release of this funding by way of reimbursement will go a long way in providing critical funding assistance for continued repairs, including but not limited to the largest repair - the replacement of the roof at the R.H. Amphlett Leader Superior Court building in Kingshill.”

“Recovery must occur across all branches of government to allow the Territory to return to its full functionality,” said Office of Disaster Recovery Director Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien. “I am most pleased that our combined efforts have resulted in receiving funding to provide the Judiciary with resources to continue its recovery.” The Judicial Branch will continue to solicit bids to complete the remaining repairs and renovations based on funding availability.

For this and other disaster recovery advertisements, please visit http://www.usviodr.com/doing-business-with-odr/.

Governor Bryan Thanks Members of the Legislature for Support on Securitization Measure

August 30, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr., on Friday thanked the eight members of the 33rd Legislature who voted in favor of authorizing the administration to move forward with its plan to seek the securitization of the territory’s Internal Revenue Matching Fund bonds as a means of generating extra cash flow.

“I want to thank Senate President Novelle Francis for his continued leadership and Senators Alicia Barnes, Marvin Blyden, Allison Degazon, Donna Frett-Gregory, Stedman Hodge, Myron Jackson and Athniel “Bobby” Thomas for their support of this measure,” Governor Bryan said.

“Their vote allows the Government of the Virgin Islands to explore the market and realize savings that can fund critical government needs, and that can help reduce the unfunded pension liability of the Government Employees Retirement System,” the governor added. “The refinancing of our existing bond debt in this unprecedented low-interest-rate environment is too great an opportunity not to explore.”

The governor said the approval of the securitization measure Friday is an incremental step in the right direction. However, he stressed that there is still a lot of work ahead to resolve the territory’s fiscal issues.

“This is another step closer, but there is still a lot of work that has to be done. We have a long way to go, but this team has assured me that they are willing to work together to get things done for the people of the territory. This is an example of how Democrats when working together, can continue the party’s long legacy in shaping the Virgin Islands for the better,” Governor Bryan said.

The Governor also stated that while his administration is in pursuit of this measure and others, he continues to be receptive to other proposed solutions brought forth by the Legislature and other community leaders.

“Our administration remains open to other solutions as we continue our work to stabilize the government and restore the people’s trust,” the governor said.

“It will take a collective effort to right our financial ship and address the looming threat of insolvency confronting our public pension system.” If finalized successfully, the administration’s securitization measure promises to add $255 million to the territory’s treasury over the next three years and produce additional cash flow savings for another seven years beyond that.

Governor Bryan’s Cannabis Use Act, which proposes to add an estimated $20 million annually in new revenues, remains before the 33rd Legislature for further action.

Governor Bryan Praises VIPD Anti-Crime Initiative

August 28, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. commended the Virgin Islands Police Department for removing three guns from the street on St. Croix during Phase 2 of the department’s V.I. Crime Initiative, which Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor put into place during the last quarter of 2019.

Last week, the VIPD made three separate arrests, including one for an unlicensed firearm, as it aggressively pursues the perpetrators of the recent spate of gun violence that police attribute to disputes between rival criminal enterprises.

“This is the kind of proactive police work we are taking to fight the gun violence that has plagued these islands for too long, and I applaud the men and women of the Virgin Islands Police Department and our peace officers for taking the fight to those criminals who terrorize our community,” Governor Bryan said. “Once again, I am calling on residents to become part of the solution to the problem of gun violence by assisting the police with information. It cannot be said too much: If you see something, say something.”

Governor Bryan said he is sending proposed gun control legislation down to the 33rd Legislature requiring travelers to report any weapons or ammunition brought into the Territory before they embark to the U.S. Virgin Islands. On Sept. 3, Police Commissioner Velinor will appear before the Senate Homeland Security Committee to give an update on the gun violence in the Territory.

Residents who witness criminal activity can call 911 or report it anonymously through the Crime Stoppers USVI tip line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Motorcyclist Dies in Accident

August 27, 2020

ST. THOMAS, USVI – On August 26 at approximately 9:56 p.m., the 911 Emergency Call Center was notified of a motorcycle accident on Weymouth Rhymer Highway.

Investigation into the accident revealed that the motorcycle was traveling eastbound when the rider lost control near the New Herrnhut Church entrance and hit the railing off the westbound lane. The rider was thrown into the bushes, while the motorcycle caught fire where it stopped. The rider of the motorcycle succumbed to his injuries at the scene. He was identified as 36-year- old Denby Dumas.

The investigation by the VIPD Traffic Investigation Bureau continues.

VI Veterans COVID-19 Testing Available 31 Aug – 28 Sept 2020

August 26, 2020

The VA Caribbean Healthcare System will be conducting testing for Virgin Islands Veterans during the period of August 31st thru September 28th, 2020 on the islands of St. Croix, St Thomas and St John.

This 2nd round of COVID-19 testing will be conducted at the VA Clinic locations on St. Croix and St. Thomas. Testing will take place 2 days a week for the next 4 weeks beginning on Monday August 31, 2020. On Monday’s, testing will take place in the parking lot outside of the St. Croix VA Clinic which is located at the Village Mall in Baron Spot. Testing on St. Thomas will take place on Wednesday’s in the parking lot outside of the VA Clinic located in the Medical Foundation building located behind the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital. Testing at both locations will be conducted using a drive-thru type concept, there will be no need to exit your vehicle. Special accommodations will be made for Veterans not in a vehicle.

Veterans interested in having the test done please report to the VA Clinic in your district on one of the allotted days between the hours of 9am and 12pm. Please have a photo I.D. available for eligibility verification.

Any Veteran missing this opportunity in either district and begin experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms, please call the Virgin Islands Department of Health at (340) 712- 6299 on St. Croix or (340) 776-1519 on St. Thomas or St. John.

 

 

Governor Bryan Urges Continued Diligence During Pivotal Second Week of ‘Stay at Home’ Phase

August 24, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – During his weekly press briefing on Monday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. stressed the need for residents to refrain from moving about the Territory as the territory enters the critical second week of its “Stay at Home” phase.

While he announced some adjustments in easing some of the current requirements of his most recent executive order, the Governor also said this week is a pivotal week and that health officials are hoping that the Territory will see a return to a virus positivity rate of 5 percent or lower.

“We have already seen a significant decline in passengers arriving by plane, especially in the St. Thomas-St. John District as a result of the moratorium on leisure travel,” Governor Bryan said. “Unfortunately, we have not yet seen the decline in positivity rates that we are hoping to achieve. This was not unexpected, as we are experiencing the result of those infections that occurred prior to the ‘Stay at Home’ order being effectuated.”

The Governor also amended some of the restrictions currently in place under his executive order and said some specific businesses/organizations can remain open:

The Census Bureau, their contractors and workers, Dive shops for the purpose of refilling oxygen tanks only to aid the fishing industry, Houses of worship, which can hold services with more than 10 persons in the entire sanctuary and can provide Communion as long as it is presented to receivers in protected containers, Professional services, such as legal services, accounting services and insurance companies to assist in compliance with legally mandated matters.

“I want to assure those employees and businesses that have been negatively affected by this public health order that we are aware of their challenges, and we will not maintain this order any longer than necessary,” Governor Bryan said.

Proposed Matching Fund Revenues Legislation

During his closing remarks at Monday’s briefing, Governor Bryan spoke about his proposed legislation to create a new stream of revenue to shore up the Government Employee’s Retirement System through the Matching Fund Securitization Act.

Governor Bryan initially called the 33rd Legislature into Special Session on August 18; however, the date was pushed back because of issues at the Legislature with COVID-19, and the 33rd Legislature will go into Special Session on Tuesday, August 25.

The Governor’s proposed legislation would all ow the creation of a financial entity that would refinance the debt of the Government of the Virgin Islands at a more favorable interest rate and realize revenues of about $85 million a year for each of the next three years. Additionally, the legislation would mark the USVI’s re-entry into the bond market for the first time in 11 years and reduce the Territory’s debt service payment.

“This truly is a win-win situation for us here in the Territory, and I am looking forward to the support of the Legislature as they consider granting us the authorization to finalize this transaction in Special Session tomorrow,” Governor Bryan said. “We have already had two meetings with the Legislature, and I personally reached out this weekend to those who had remaining concerns.

“While we are two separate branches, I always remind myself that we are on the same team,” the Governor said. “We have to put aside our political agendas and do what is right for the people of the Virgin Islands, especially our retirees and our future retirees, who are counting on us to come up with a solution, and piece by piece we will.”

Unemployment

To date, the Virgin Islands Department of Labor (VIDOL) has issued 32,406 unemployment insurance checks totaling $24,647,231. The department also has issued 25,822 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation checks totaling $32,202,740. VIDOL has issued $838,961 in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to self-employed Virgin Islanders and $270,263 in Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. All told, the Bryan-Roach Administration has issued 58,595 checks totaling $64,959,159 through the Virgin Islands Department of Labor.

Stimulus

 The Administration continues to issue federal Stimulus payments to V.I. residents. Last week the Government of the Virgin Islands issued 3,116 checks totaling $4,344,513. Residents who believe they are entitled to a federal Stimulus payment but who have not received one should contact the Bureau of Internal Revenue at 340-773-1040 on St. Croix or 340-715-1040 on St. Thomas.

Moody’s Upgrades VI Tobacco Settlement Financing Corporation Bonds

August 23, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority announced that it received notice that Moody’s Investor Service has upgraded the tobacco settlement revenue securitization bonds of the Virgin Islands Tobacco Settlement Financing Corporation. The Series 2001 Bonds were upgraded from A3 to A1. The upgrade action is primarily driven by further deleveraging and the availability of cash reserves, according to the notice.

The Tobacco Settlement Financing Corporation is a public corporation independent of the Government of the Virgin Islands and was established by the government pursuant to the Tobacco Settlement Financing Act of 2001. The corporation is formed for the purposes of: 1) purchasing all of the government's right, title, and interest in the Tobacco Settlement Fund litigation awards received and to be received by the government under the Master Settlement Agreement entered into with the four largest tobacco manufacturers; 2) to issue Bonds to pay the purchase price for acquiring such proceeds; and 3) enabling the government to pay for or refinance hospital and healthcare projects and other undertakings of the government. The proceeds of the bonds were used to finance several hospital and health department capital projects, including the Charlotte Kimmelman Cancer Institute on St. Thomas and the construction of the V.I. Cardiac Center on St. Croix, and to fund operating costs of the corporation.

“This is terrific news and very timely”, said Governor Albert Bryan Jr., who is also president of the Tobacco Settlement Financing Corporation. “As we prepare to establish another securitization corporation to securitize the Matching Fund revenues, this upgrade confirms that our approach to establish an independent corporation to issue the Matching Fund Revenue Bonds is looked on favorably by the ratings agencies resulting in an investment grade rating and lower interest cost for our bonds.”

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USVI Department of Human Services Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (PEBT) Update

August 21, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS— In a statement on Thursday, the Department of Human Services (DHS) apologized for the delay in the issuance of Pandemic EBT benefits. The Department says it has been diligently working to address a number of hurdles that presented themselves, including getting accurate mailing addresses from the Department of Education for thousands of students, and also working through the final detailed steps of the contracting process with its federal partners.

DHS also said it is working to ensure that P-EBT can begin to be issued within the next two weeks. The thousands of files for current SNAP and non-SNAP families with children who attended public and private schools (from schools that participated in the School Lunch Program) are being uploaded to the EBT Contractor system. They will test the upload and, when that test is successful, P-EBT cards for non-SNAP families will be prepared and mailed and P-EBT benefits will be placed on the existing EBT Cards of current SNAP recipients.

As soon as DHS gets word that the vendor system test was successful and issuance is on its way, the Department will share the exact dates via press release, radio, social media and its website and will continue to announce information related to P-EBT through these channels. Once P-EBT issuance begins, families will have access to a dedicated phone line and email address for issues related to the mailing.

 

August 20, 2020.

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – The Virgin Islands National Guard assisted with distributing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farmers to Families Food Boxes at the Lionel Roberts Stadium in St. Thomas, Aug. 14.

USDA purchased agricultural products under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to support families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program supplies the food boxes of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and meat products out to the community.

Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands (CCVI) lead the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program in the St. Thomas and St. John district. Hundreds of community members gathered for the distribution of food items. Members of the VING through the V.I. Department of Human Services assisted with the distribution of the food boxes, and maintained crowd control measures according to the CDC guidelines.

"Under the leadership and direction of General Kodjo S. Knox-Limbacker, Task Force Bravo answered the call to assist CCVI," said Capt. Jahmel Leonard, task force bravo commander." "Soldiers continue to remain ready, relevant, and responsive during the COVID-19 pandemic on several fronts to include airport screening, public service announcements, patient transportation, and commodity distribution. We will continue to serve our community and the Nation when called upon."

USVI Department of Human Services and Queen Louise Home for The Aged Update

August 19, 2020

 The Department of Human Services and the staff at Queen Louise Home for the Aged confirm the passing (on August 18, 2020) of their most senior Queen Louise Home resident who was 101 years old. Dr. Amaro, Interim President of Schneider Regional Medical Center, cared for her for many years, until she was 100 .,

“She was full of personality and spunk. She was a wonderful resident of the home who was a joy to take care of.” Commissioner Causey-Gomez and all the staff of Queen Louise Home extend their deepest condolences to her family.

 The Department of Human Services cannot state cause of death as it is currently being evaluated and protected under HIPAA laws.

The eleven (11) residents who tested positive for COVID-19 remain in relatively good health. (*There are currently 11 residents at the hospital who are positive, ten in good health and one who is being closely watched.)

Those residents who initially tested negative were placed in a non-congregate care setting while the Home was sanitized and is preparing to welcome them again in the safest way possible.

DHS  asks for your prayers for their essential, front line staff and the health our most vulnerable across the Territory as we all work to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

Governor Bryan Reschedules Special Session Because of COVID Issue at Legislature

August 18, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has rescheduled the Special Session he called for the Senate from Tuesday, August 18, to Tuesday, August 25, because of the present circumstances of COVID-19 affecting the Legislature.

On Monday, August 17, Sen. Kenneth Gittens disclosed that he had tested positive for the virus, and the necessity of investigating the possible contamination of Legislature staff and sanitization procedures necessitated postponing the session.

Governor Bryan had called the 33rd Legislature into Special Session to take action on his proposed legislation to amend Title 29 of the V.I. Code by adding a new chapter to create the Matching Fund Securitization Corporation.

The Governor’s proposed legislation will enable the Territory to refinance its debt obligations at a much better interest rate, thereby yielding about $85 million a year for the next three years that would be used to shore up the Government Employees’ Retirement System.

 

Governor Bryan Announces Distribution Of $20 Million in Income Tax Refunds

August 17, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced Monday that the Virgin Islands Department of Finance has begun distributing $20 million of income tax refunds.

The refunds comprise the rest of the tax refunds owed from 2017 and a portion of those owed from 2018.

“Lt. Governor Roach and I sought this office with the goal of rebuilding trust in the Government of the Virgin Islands. One of the biggest objectives facing the government in that regard is fulfilling its obligations and paying what is owed to workers, vendors, creditors and taxpayers,” Governor Bryan said. “We are especially pleased to have found a way to put this money back into the pockets of hard-working taxpayers despite the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy and public finances.”

This latest distribution of income tax refunds brings the total disbursement to $58 million for the current fiscal year.

The Governor said the Administration is able to provide the refunds because of the government’s true belt-tightening measures, and that it is not just lip service.

“There are many commissioners presenting budgets this summer before the Senate Finance Committee that are considerably smaller than they would like, but we have made a conscious decision to put priority on paying down the past due debts of the Government of the Virgin Islands and will take every opportunity to continue to do so,” Governor Bryan said. “I want to thank the members of my financial team for their hard work during the unprecedented and uncertain times. The fiscal management of this government is truly in good hands.”

Watch:

Governor Bryan Orders Return to “Stay at Home” Status In Response to Continuing Spread of COVID-19

.August 13, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has ordered the Territory to return to “Stay at Home” status, or the orange level, which means the closure of non-essential businesses, restaurants limited to take-out, delivery or drive-through service and prohibiting hotels, villas, Airbnbs, temporary vacation housing and charter vessels and similar businesses from accepting leisure travel reservations.
 
The prohibition of new leisure travel reservations is effective immediately, and on Wednesday, August 19, 2020, those businesses are prohibited from admitting any new check-ins or registering any new guests for 30 days unless the order is lifted sooner. The new restriction does not apply to business travelers, , emergency personnel, flight crews or government guests with written authorization from the government agency they are visiting.
 
“When we announced our COVID-19 alert system in May, I indicated at that time that we would retreat back to a more cautious state of alert if conditions warranted. Unfortunately, we have arrived at that point this week,” Governor Bryan said during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

“The recent infiltration of the virus into our residential institutions that house vulnerable members of our population creates an alarming level of risk,” the Governor said. “This adds to the stress of the ongoing pandemic response that seemingly has no end in sight and is wearing out our healthcare and public safety infrastructure.”
 
Beginning Monday, August 17, 2020, all non-essential businesses and churches are ordered to cease operations and the public is ordered to stay at home. A number of businesses are exempt from closure (see included list) but must still operate with the recommended social distancing requirement of 6 feet or more between individuals.
 
Also beginning Monday, August 17 and lasting until August 31 unless earlier lifted, all restaurants in the Territory can operate only take out, delivery or drive-through service. All bars, nightclubs and cabarets are to remain closed so long as the Territory remains in a State of Emergency.
 
Additionally, all taxis and safaris are limited to half capacity as long as the Territory remains in a State of Emergency.
 
The prohibition against mass gatherings remains in effect; however, under the “Stay at Home” status, mass gatherings are defined as any event or convening that brings together more than 10 persons in a single room. A mass gathering does not include operations for standard essential services and infrastructure, such as grocery stores and bi-box stores, airports and seaports or medical facilities.
 
Other restrictions that go into effect on Monday, August 17 and lasting until August 31, unless lifted earlier, are:
  • All beaches will close at noon until 6 a.m. to following day on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Only fishermen may be on the beach during the beach closure to access their vessels or cast their nets.
  • All public, private and parochial school campuses will be closed for students.
  • The face mask requirements set forth in the 12th Supplemental Executive Order on August 10, which establishes fines for failing to comply with masking requirements, remain in effect.

DOH inspections of sanitization equipment
Also beginning Monday, August 17, the Virgin Islands Department of Health will begin inspections of all glassware and utensils sanitization equipment and procedures in licensed restaurants, either by request or incidental inspections.
 
The purpose of the inspections is to certify whether such dishwashing and sanitization equipment meets Department of Health requirements and could result in the establishment being exempt from the required use of disposable dishes, utensils, napkins and drink containers.
 
Upon certification that a licensed restaurant’s dishwashing procedures meet the Department of Health requirements and the lifting of the dine-in suspension, said restaurant shall immediately be issued an exemption certificate.
 

Governor Bryan Signs Bill Allowing First Responders To Get Paid Administrative Leave in Medical Pandemics

August 12,2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has signed into law Bill No. 33-0341, amending the V.I. Code regarding the authorization of administrative leave during medical pandemics or medical states of emergency.
 
ACT 8327 grants up to 80 hours of administrative leave with pay for certain government employees who are being quarantined or whose health may be affected by the immediate medical pandemic.
 
A new section (590c) of Title 3, Chapter 25, Subchapter VI reads:
 
“Whenever the Territory of the Virgin Islands is facing a medical pandemic, or a medical state of emergency is declared by the Governor of the Virgin Islands, all personnel of the Government of the Virgin Islands, including personnel of authorities, independent boards, agencies and other instrumentalities of the Government of the Virgin Islands, who are first responders or medical personnel, inclusive of support staff, in addition to any accrued leave, are entitled to administrative leave with pay for up to eighty hours if they are unable to work in their respective areas or from home due to:
  1. showing symptoms and requiring diagnosis;
  2. being quarantined by the Government of the Virgin Islands or a healthcare provider;
  3. experiencing conditions substantially similar to the immediate medical pandemic or medical state of emergency;
  4. experiences acute health issues or discomfort that appears to be linked to the time spent in employees’ place of employment, but no specific illness or cause can be determined, or;
  5. has any exacerbation of a confirmed pre-existing condition.”
 
The new section of the V.I. Code applies only during the medical pandemic or territorial state of emergency.
 
“During a State of Emergency, first responders sacrifice their time with loved ones and their recreational time while risking their own health and well-being to continue to assist and support the community,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter to Senate President Novelle Francis Jr. “Often times, first responders are also affected by the conditions of a State of Emergency but continue to serve while compromising themselves. This Act recognizes that even our first responders, often our heroes, also need support in times of emergency.”

Governor Bryan Proposes Legislation Creating New Revenue, Calls 33rd Legislature Into Special Session to Take Action

August
11,2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Tuesday announced another positive change in the Territory’s financial future. The Governor has proposed legislation that will create a significant revenue stream for the U.S. Virgin Islands and reduce overall interest rates on the Territory’s current debt. He is urging the 33rd Legislature to act expeditiously to approve the measure.
 
The Matching Fund Securitization Act, which marks the USVI’s re-entry into the bond market for the first time in 11 years, can potentially create a revenue stream of $85 million for each of the next three years by reducing the Territory’s annual debt service payment. The Act would significantly increase cash flow and create a vehicle for the Government’s future bonding needs, according to the Governor.
 
“In plain language, we’re refinancing the existing debt to make monies available now. We are not using a penny extra,” Governor Bryan said. “To be honest, this financial transaction is complicated, and it comes with a very tight time frame; however, it presents an opportunity that is too critical to overlook.”
 
The Governor has called the Legislature into Special Session to take action on his proposed legislation on Tuesday, August 18, 2020.

 The transaction would achieve four important benefits:
  • It provides the Virgin Islands with access to the bond market
  • It reduces the overall interest rate on the current debts and provides $106 million in present value savings
  • It reduces the Territory’s annual debt service payment
  • It creates a potential revenue stream for cash flow of $85 million annually to the Territory for the first three years alone
The Governor said that while shoring up the Government Employees’ Retirement System remains a priority for the use of the funds, there are several potential uses and needs for the funds that will become available because of the refinancing.
 
“With this new revenue we can create a closely monitored revolving fund that will help us to get our projects moving faster,” Governor Bryan said. “We also still owe many of our employees and retirees' money in retroactive pay and 8 percent. We have not forgotten. Ultimately the Legislature will have the purview to decide how this money is spent, but we must insist that the GERS be our utmost priority.”
 
The Governor said the securitization of the Matching Fund Receipts is not an uncommon practice in the marketplace and has been used by other jurisdictions with great success.

“Under current market conditions, the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority is not able to restructure the outstanding matching fund bonds with a more traditional refunding bond structure and could not achieve the debt service savings that are expected to be achieved by this transaction,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter to Senate President Novelle Francis Jr.
 
The Governor said his proposed Securitization measure is expected to reduce the overall debt service payments as soon as October 1, 2020, and approval of the measure by August 19, 2020, is necessary to complete the Securitization transaction before the next debt service due date.
 
“We have an opportunity now to chart a new course for our Territory,” Governor Bryan said. “We have opportunities to bring closer to resolution many of the issues confronting our community.”

Governor Bryan’s Judicial Nominees Bring Decades of Experience to the Bench

August 10, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s nominees for seats on the Virgin islands Superior Court – Assistant U.S. Attorney Alphonso Andrews and Assistant Attorney General Sigrid Tejo – have decades of experience in all aspects of the legal system, and they both have successful careers as prosecutors for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
 
Attorney Tejo and Attorney Andrews are both natives of St. Croix and have successfully prosecuted a number of high-profile criminal cases for the U.S. District Curt of the Virgin islands.
 
Attorney Tejo graduated from the Manor School on St. Croix and went to Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., where she obtained a Master’s degree in Education. In 1992, she took a job as a paralegal and began her career in the legal field. She graduated with a law degree in 2003 from the Franklin Pierce Law Center (now the University of New Hampshire Law School).
 
She joined the Virgin Islands Department of Justice in 2009 in the Office of Collective Bargaining before transitioning in 2011 to the V.I. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, where she prosecuted crimes of violence. In 2014, she accepted a position with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on St. Thomas, where she prosecuted firearms cases drug cases and violent crimes. During that time, she also was named the Project Safe Neighborhood coordinator for the District of the Virgin Islands.
 
“It is my honor to accept the Governor’s nomination for a seat as a Superior Court Judge of the Virgin Islands,” she said. “This nomination has filled me with a strong sense of pride for the confidence placed in me. Service to the community is a responsibility I always take seriously.”
 
Attorney Andrews graduated from Central High School and the University of the Virgin islands, and he holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Maryland.
 
He has been employed as an internal revenue agent with the Bureau of Internal Revenue, an assistant attorney general with the Virgin islands Attorney General’s Office, a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a Territorial Court judge and is now back with the U.S. Attorney’s Office as the deputy Chief of the Criminal Division. In that capacity, he manages the St. Croix U.S. Attorney’s Office, prosecutes criminal cases in the U.S. District Court of the Virgin Islands and occasionally prosecutes cases on behalf of the Government of the Virgin islands as a cross-designated assistant attorney general.
 
He is married to Valencia Plaskett-Andrews and they have a daughter, Rukiya.
 
“It is indeed a great honor to have been nominated to serve as a judge of the Superior Court of the Virgin islands, a position that carries an awesome responsibility,” he said. “I am humbled and thankful for the rare opportunity to serve my community in that capacity and now look forward to participating in the legislative confirmation process.”

Government House Statement on Talks of Renewed COVID Restrictions

August 7,2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Government House issued the following statement on Friday in response to information circulated about plans to renew COVID restrictions on businesses and other community activities:
 
“Neither Governor Albert Bryan Jr., Government House nor the administration’s COVID-19 Task Force have made any official announcements concerning beach closures, added restrictions to restaurants’ current operations or further restrictions on gatherings at funerals or other events in the territory.
 
“The governor, along with members of the administration’s COVID-19 Task Force on Thursday, met with Tourism industry stakeholders and signaled possible future actions. However, that meeting and those conversations were intended to serve as a courtesy, and the actions mentioned during that meeting are contingent on the data received over the coming days.
 
“Governor Bryan and the territory’s COVID-19 Task Force continues to closely monitor data compiled daily to inform its decision-making process and determine the next steps.
 
“Further information will be made available during the Governor’s next COVID Update, Monday, August 10, 2020.”



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Governor Bryan Clarifies Double Stimulus Checks Resulting from Puerto Rico Issuing Direct Deposits

August 7,2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has issued further clarification regarding Puerto Rico’s Department of Treasury, known as “Hacienda,” issuing Social Security stimulus payments to Virgin Islands residents by direct deposit, resulting in some Virgin Islanders receiving double Stimulus payments and creating confusion for residents of the Territory.

“Several months ago, monies were made available by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to issue Stimulus payments to Virgin Islands residents under the CARES ACT,” Governor Bryan said. “After an insistent lobbying effort by the V.I. Government and others, including AARP, the IRS also subsequently provided a listing of names and mailing addresses of Social Security recipients who reside in the USVI. The Internal Revenue Bureau immediately scrubbed the listing to confirm that all Social Security recipients were Virgin Islands residents with local addresses making them eligible to receive these funds through the V.I. Government.”

On July 24, the IRB mailed 6,473 checks totaling $7.3 million of payments of $1,200 for each adult to Social Security recipients in the Territory.
 
Concurrently, the IRS issued a similar list to the Government of Puerto Rico of eligible recipients who reside in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the Governor said. Eligible Virgin Islanders on that list would already have received the stimulus checks from the VIBIR by mail and should have been eliminated.
 
“It appears that in the Puerto Rico process, some recipients on the list with Virgin Islands addresses were inadvertently overlooked for deletion and direct deposits of the stimulus funds to their accounts mistakenly took place, beginning last week,” Governor Bryan said. “This resulted in overpayment to those recipients. It has not yet been determined how many recipients are affected.”
 
In an effort to assist Hacienda in Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands residents who erroneously received an additional stimulus payment by direct deposit, the IRB has agreed to be the conduit for returning the overpayments to the U.S. Treasury Department.
 
Because of the wire transfer protocol used by banks of Social Security recipients, electronically recalling the funds from each account erroneously credited would impact all recipients on the list paid out by Hacienda and could also affect the individual accounts of Virgin Islands recipients, resulting in overdraft fees or other bank charges.
 
“To avoid Virgin Islanders incurring extra bank fees or charges, the IRB has agreed to assist residents who erroneously received a second stimulus check payment in returning those funds to the U.S. Treasury,” Governor Bryan said. “As the IRS and the IRB reconcile records by Social Security numbers and are becoming aware of those who have received double payments, the USVI government will not charge interest or penalties under any circumstances for those returning the overpaid funds to the IRB.”
 
Some Virgin Islanders who have received double payments have been approached by individuals offering to assist with the return of the funds and in the process have given their confidential information including Social Security numbers to these persons.
 
“Residents are cautioned to not share their Social Security number with anyone outside of the Bureau of Internal Revenue as the Virgin Islands works to assist Puerto Rico with rectifying this matter,” Governor Bryan said.
 
Residents who have received double stimulus payments should bring or mail a check or money order made out to the V.I. Bureau of Internal Revenue for the full amount of the overpayment to local IRB offices.
 
Payments to be returned can be delivered in person to the IRB offices in Red Hook on St. Thomas or at the Sunny Isle Shopping Center on St. Croix.
 
Checks or money orders for overpayments also can be mailed to 6115 Estate Smith Bay, Suite 225, St. Thomas, VI 00802.
 
As there has been a very high volume of calls, inquirers are asked to be patient as IRB telephone representatives strive to answer as many calls as possible each day.

Governor Bryan Thanks Legislature for Allowing Administration to Clarify Contract Award Process

August 5, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Wednesday thanked members of the 33rd Legislature who participated in the Senate’s Committee of the Whole hearing about the contract negotiations between the Virgin Islands Department of Health and Avera to provide contact-tracing services during the COVID-19 epidemic.
 
“I would like to commend the Legislature for its diligence in clarifying the steps that were taken and putting to rest any further rumors or misinformation about the contract award process proscribed by the V.I. Code,” Governor Bryan said after the hearing. “The application of checks and balances between branches of government, although sometimes frustratingly politicized, is a fundamental and essential part of our form of government and we respect that process.”
 
During a 7-hour hearing on St. Thomas on Wednesday, the Senate Committee of the Whole heard testimony from a half-dozen members – and members of their staffs – of the Bryan Roach Administration: Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion; Property & Procurement Commissioner Anthony Thomas; Public Finance Authority Executive Director Nathan Simmonds; DPNR Commissioner Jeanne-Pierre Oriol; Office of Disaster Recovery Director Adrienne Williams-Octalien; and Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority Executive Director Daryl Griffith.
 
In addition to inquiring about the process of the Department of Health negotiating with Avera about an agreement to conduct contact-tracing services, senators also had questions about an agreement through DPNR for The Strategy Group to distribute about $10 million in federal funds to fishers for damages to their businesses from the hurricanes of 2017.
Regarding that agreement, Commissioner Oriol reiterated previous testimony he gave last month that there is no contract with DPNR, and The Strategy Group was awarded a subcontract by Witt O’Brien’s following a thorough bid award process.
 
During her testimony, Commissioner Encarnacion described the process the Department of Health followed after issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a contact-tracing app to assist the department in its efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Of three companies that asked for RFP applications, only Avera responded. The proposal presented by Avera has since been rejected and the Department of Health has received six responses to the reissued RFP, the Health commissioner said.
 
“I’d like to thank the 33rd Legislature for its thoroughness and determination in conducting its administrative and legislative duties to examine every aspect of the contract discussions between Avera and Health,” Governor Bryan said. “The Senate’s meticulous and comprehensive fact-finding resulted in the public having a clear knowledge that there was no wrongdoing and no steps were skipped in the contract process for the government.”

BIR ALERTS VIRGIN ISLANDS RESIDENTS ABOUT ERRONEOUS DIRECT DEPOSIT STIMULUS PAYMENTS

August 4, 2020

Joel A. Lee, Director of the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue, alerts Virgin Islands taxpayers of the possibility of the receipts of duplicate stimulus payments.

It has been brought to our attention that some of our Virgin Islands residents have received stimulus payments via direct deposit, in addition to the checks that were paid by the Government of the Virgin Islands. Taxpayers are only entitled to one Stimulus Check at this time," stated Director Lee.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue is not Stimulas checks via direct deposit. Taxpayers who receive two stimuls checks are asked to repay the second one by bringing a check or money order to the Bureau's offices, or by mailing it to the following address:

6115 ESTATE SMITH BAY, SUITE 225 ST. THOMAS, VIRGIN ISLANDS 00802

 

Governor Bryan Urges Community to Come Forward With Information About Recent Homicides

August 3, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. began his weekly COVID-19 briefing on Monday with a plea to residents to unite against the gun violence that has been plaguing the Territory and come forward with information about recent homicides.

“Today, I want to address another serious public health and safety issue here in our Territory. That matter is gun violence,” Governor Bryan said. “Unfortunately, we have lost eight people to the Coronavirus here in the Territory since we officially began our response in March. In that same timeframe, we have lost almost three times as many Virgin Islanders to senseless gun violence.”

While it is easy to point the finger at law enforcement, the hard truth is that no law enforcement strategy that does not involve information and cooperation from the community will stop gun violence from reoccurring, the Governor said.

“The VIPD is working hard and is making progress in apprehending many of these violent offenders, but they can use your help,” Governor Bryan said, citing the $15,000 reward offered for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators of the Hospital Ground shootings in April and the $60,000 reward for information about the murders of Aaron and Rique Ashby in Tutu Valley last month.

To report a crime, call 911 or use the anonymous tip line Crime Stoppers USVI at 1-800-222- 8477.

Coronavirus Patient Receives Applause and Celebration from JFL Staff Upon Discharge

August 3, 2020

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, August 2, 2020 - “Vivir Mi Vida (Live My Life)” by Marc Anthony played as caregivers and staff at the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center Hospital (“JFL”) cheered and celebrated the discharge of recovered COVID-19 patient, Guillermo Riasco on Saturday, after a challenging 34 day hospitalization at JFL.

The staff at JFL “... brought me back to life, I just feel blessed. God bless them all.” Mr. Riasco’s caregiver team included Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacy, Respiratory Therapists, Medical Assistants, Dietary, Housekeeping and all supporting staff, who passionately cared for him through his challenging COVID battle. Upon discharge, ICU staff gifted him.

During the 34 days Mr. Riasco spent in JFL’s Intensive Care Unit, of which he was intubated for 22 days; he is now reunited with his family.

In addition to providing quality critical care, after learning that Mr. Riasco likes music, the ICU Team went the extra mile and encouraged him through music therapy which included his favorite musical artist Marc Anthony. Upon discharge, ICU staff and the JFL Team gifted him with a Crucian bracelet, a #JFLSuperheroes t-shirt, balloons and homemade cards.

According to Interim CEO Dyma B. Williams, “Today, I and the JFL Team celebrate healing with heart. I thank the JFL Team for providing quality patient care and being the very foundation of the healthcare system that we are working to build for our community.”

 

 

 

VING's 631st Engineers Makes Repairs to Local Schools During Annual Training

August 2, 2020

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – The Virgin Islands National Guard 631st Engineer Utilities Detachment conducted annual training July 10-24, 2020, in St. Thomas.

The unit completed several community projects on the island of St. Thomas during their two weeks training at the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and the Bertha C. Boschulte Junior High School.

At the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, an entire conference room was rewired, and windows reinforced. Also, new ceiling tiles and tracks were installed.

The engineering unit constructed eight new benches at the Bertha C. Boschulte Junior High School and two walkway coverings. The unit also re-energized the lighting system for the entire school, which had been without lights since the aftermath of hurricanes in 2017.

“Home has limited opportunities for soldiers to exercise their skills,” said Army Cpt. Jahmel Leonard, commander of 631st Engineer Utilities Detachment. “But because of the dedicated NCOs in the unit, the soldiers had an opportunity to practice their military occupational specialty.”

The unit was scheduled to attend a 21-day overseas deployment training in Hohenfels, Germany, which had been postponed due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“The most important thing for me during AT is that all soldiers get to exercise their skillsets and improve,” said Leonard.

Other small projects at the 786th Readiness Center supply rooms, such as installing hooks to hang gas masks in the vaults, were also completed.

Governor Bryan Implores Senators to Take Action On Mass Gatherings Law as Pandemic Continues

July 30, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. sent a letter on Friday to Senate President Novelle Francis Jr. imploring him to get the 33rd Legislature to take action on a bill to restrict mass gatherings as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the Virgin Islands.

Governor Bryan sent the proposed legislation to the Legislature in December in response to a shooting at the large Floatopia party at Fort Frederik Beach that left six people injured.

No action was taken on the proposed law since it was submitted, and since then, the Territory has fallen under the COVID-19 pandemic. Mass gatherings are one of the main causes for the second wave of the Coronavirus that has continued its spread throughout the Territory since the beginning of July.

“I strongly believe the Legislature’s prompt consideration and enactment of the Mas Gathering Act will strongly aid in the protection of the Virgin Islands Community during this pandemic and after,” Governor Bryan wrote in his letter to Senator Francis.

The Governor said that recent examples of problems that the Mass Gathering Act could have addressed if it had been enacted are:

Unauthorized Organizers facilitating public parties that do not promote social distancing and allow for mass gatherings. Flash Crowd Mass gatherings, such as marine events on boats (“raft ups”), at beaches and in public businesses that do not promote social distancing and allow for mass gatherings.

“For these reasons, it is imperative that the Legislature consider the Mass Gathering Act,” Governor Bryan wrote in the letter to Senator Francis. “I am asking that the Legislature give this Act the prompt action previously requested, in light of the extant circumstances presently faced by law enforcement personnel.”

Spirit Airlines Cancels Flights Due to Weather Conditions

July 29, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The Virgin Islands Port Authority is announcing that Spirit Airlines has cancelled all flights from Orlando, Florida, to St. Thomas, scheduled for today, Wednesday, July 29. Additionally, Seaborne (Silver Airways) has no flights scheduled for today, Wednesday, July 29th.

Airports are open and other flights are operating as normal. Travelers are encouraged to call their airlines directly for flight and rescheduling information.

Waste Management Advises Community Of Potential Sewer System Storm Surge, Overflowing Manholes

July 29, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (VIWMA) Preserving Paradise team advises the community that due to inclement weather the sewer collection system may experience a large inflow of storm water which may cause overflows in low line areas.

The flow of rain water and storm water entering the sewer system may exceed the pumping capacity at various pump stations that service business systems to the wastewater treatment plants. After the rain and the storm water run-off subsides, the sewer collection system may continue to be impacted.

Motorists are asked to use extreme caution when traversing through flooded roadways during and after the storm to avoid potential and known areas of manhole overflows. Residents are asked to avoid areas with standing waters. Persons with impacted immune systems are especially reminded to avoid all flood areas.

Residents are asked to report sewer overflows by calling our 24-Hour Hotline at 844-WMA-USVI (844-962-8784.

Coast Guard sets Port Condition YANKEE for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands due to Potential Tropical Cyclone 9

July 29, 2020

The Coast Guard set Port Condition YANKEE at 8p.m. Tuesday for all maritime ports in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgins Islands following a tropical storm warning in which the possibility of sustained gale force winds, greater than 39 mph, may arrive to the islands within 12 hours.

The Captain of the Port is directing action to the maritime and port community for final preparations and for oceangoing vessels 500 gross tons and above, without an approved application to remain in port, to have departed the port.

Mariners are reminded that there are no safe haven in these facilities, and ports are safest when the inventory of vessels is at a minimum. While port condition YANKEE remains in effect, port facilities are closed to all inbound commercial traffic unless specifically authorized by the Captain of the Port.

At this time, Coast Guard Captain of the Port San Juan anticipates setting port condition ZULU at 12 p.m. Wednesday for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. These dates and times are subject to change based on future forecast.

If and when port condition ZULU is set, meaning sustained gale force winds are expected within 12 hours, port cargo operations will be suspended and the port will be closed to all vessel traffic unless specifically authorized by the Captain of the Port.

Pleasure craft owners are advised to seek safe harbor. Maritime and port facilities are reminded to review and update their heavy weather response plans and make any additional preparations needed to adequately prepare in case of a potential impact to the area.

Governor Bryan Announces Activation of Online Portal To Reinforce Protocols for Screening Travelers to the USVI

July 27, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his weekly press briefing on Monday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. made a number of announcements, including the activation of the Department of Tourism online portal for passengers arriving in the Territory; noting the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); nominating two prosecutors for the V.I. Superior Court bench; and extending the moratorium on evictions for renters.

The Governor said the online portal allows visitors, especially those arriving from COVID-19 “hot spots” on the mainland, to upload their travel health screenings and COVID-19 test results before they travel. The online portal is at www.usviupdate.com/travelportal.

“This portal is really the beginning stage of our multi-tiered plan to improve and make more efficient our health screening protocols for incoming travelers during this pandemic,” Governor Bryan said. “There is no playbook to this pandemic. We must draw these plays as we are running them, and your input, engagement and, more importantly, your cooperation are what will determine how successful we will be.”

The Governor also thanked Territorial ADA Coordinator Julien Henley for his efforts in making the Territory more inclusive for disabled residents and visitors.

“This legislation, in my opinion, represents the Bill of Rights for Americans living with disabilities,” Governor Bryan said. “Here n the Territory, we continue our efforts to ensure that we are in full compliance with this law and that every Virgin Islands resident has equal access to services, housing, transportation and information.”

Governor Bryan also nominated two prosecutors for a seat on the V.I. Superior Court in each district: Attorney Sigrid Tejo-Sprotte, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who currently is an Assistant Attorney General in the Virgin Islands Attorney General’s Office, for the St. Thomas- St. John District and Attorney Alphonso Andrews, a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office and former judge on the V.I. Territorial Court, for the St. Croix District.

“I feel that we need to send a strong message to the criminals and our community by nominating prosecutors to the bench,” Governor Bryan said. “We feel that the experience, education and the demonstrated dedication to our community and fairness make them great choices for the judiciary.”

The Governor announced an extension for one month to the moratorium on evictions for individuals who are making a good faith effort to pay their rent and are 60 days or less behind on their payments.

“The one thing we do know is that our people who are scared and many are in need of assistance,” Governor Bryan said. “We will continue to do the things within our power as a government to ensure that we protect your health and safety , and your livelihood as well.”

Update on JFL’s COVID-19 Precautions

July 24, 2020.

The Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center Hospital (“JFL”) provides this update on the measures and additional protocols that have been implemented to help ensure a safe environment for our patients, caregivers, staff and community, which include:

 All persons entering JFL are required to wear a mask.  Visitation remains restricted.  Physicians and staff are screened daily and wear the recommended personal protective equipment at all times.  Additional cleaning and disinfection measures are being performed at the nursing stations, waiting rooms and common areas.  All healthcare workers providing direct patient care are expected to wear masks for all patient interactions, to use gloves and proper hand hygiene, and to disinfect all surfaces in between patient consults.  Patients who are symptomatic (a low-grade fever coupled with a cough, respiratory complaints, fatigue, or muscle aches) or exposures (travel to places with viral spread or contact with someone who tested positive) are separated from the rest of the patient population in all areas, but specifically the Emergency Room and the Intensive Care Unit.  Whenever there is an employee that suspects that they may have been exposed, the employee is tested at JFL through Employee Health.  Additional precautions are taken to sanitize the affected team member’s work station and any known team members that may have been in close contact are notified.

 

Police Commissioner Names New Police Chief and Deputy Chief of St. Thomas

July 22, 2020

ST. THOMAS, USVI – Police Commissioner Trevor A. Velinor announced on Tuesday that he has appointed Steven Phillip as the Chief of Police in the St. Thomas/St. John District, and Richard Velazquez as Deputy Chief of Police for the island of St. Thomas.

Chief Phillip is a 19-year veteran of the Virgin Islands Police Department. Prior to his assignment as the Acting Deputy Chief, he was a deputized federal task force officer with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area initiative, where he worked collaboratively with agents from various Federal law enforcement agencies. Chief Phillip has also been a member of the National Guard for 26 years.

Deputy Chief Velazquez began his career with the VIPD in 1991 and has served in various capacities within the Department. He has worked as an agent with the Department of Justice and as the Director of Enforcement at the Virgin Islands Lottery. Prior to this appointment, Deputy Chief Velazquez was assigned to the Special Operations Bureau, while simultaneously working as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal. He is a respected instructor and has contributed to development of officers.

Commissioner Velinor said of his appointments, “With the selection of Chief Phillip and Deputy Chiefs Newton and Velasquez, I have identified a diverse team reflective of the community. This leadership team has more than 60 years of experience, that includes community engagement, consent decree oversight, and investigative and enforcement insight.”

Governor Bryan Details Efforts to Halt Virus Spread And Keep Territory Afloat Financially

July 20, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his update on COVID-19 on Monday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said the Government of the Virgin Islands is in a critical situation regarding its financial status, and he detailed the efforts his Administration has been taking to lobby the federal government for assistance.

However, the Governor also said all signs indicate that the most recent restrictions on beaches and bars, and the stringent screening procedures in place at the Limetree Bay facility on St. Croix, are having a positive effect on halting the spread of the virus.

“Our decisions are driven by data and we monitor the information coming in from our labs, hospitals and clinics across the Territory daily,” Governor Bryan said. “In this regard, we have noticed a reduction in the rate of positivity at the same that we have ramped up our testing.”

Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach also appeared during this week’s COVID-19 update to discuss the workings of his office, which is the second-highest generator of revenue, behind the Internal Revenue Bureau. In addition to thanking his staff for keeping the business of the Government of the Virgin Islands going through the pandemic, the Lt. Governor also noted that the amnesty period had just closed on July 17.

“We want to thank all those members of the public who came forward to discharge their obligations to the Government of the Virgin Islands,” Lt. Governor Roach said. “We recognize that, yes, we are in a public health crisis at the very moment we are struggling to maintain the integrity of our government.”

Governor Bryan said he is aggressively lobbying federal officials and working with Delegate Stacey Plaskett to make sure the Virgin Islands stays on the agenda for Congress as it meets this week to work out a third stimulus package.

That package is expected to include: Another round of stimulus checks, forgiveness of $300 million in Community Disaster Loans,the extension of unemployment benefits, payroll tax cuts, additional funding for businesses & Funding for states and schools to help stabilize their budgets.

“Our government has been operating on fumes the last few months, and we are facing an extremely austere budget for Fiscal Year 2021,” Governor Bryan said. “This stimulus package promises to provide the shot in the arm needed to maintain the level of government service we need as we ride out the impacts of the pandemic. “It will also provide the wiggle room we need to pay the financial obligations that we have as a government.”

Governor Bryan said the closure of the bars has had an impact on the spread of the virus, and the only difference in restrictions between now and June 1 is that the hotels are allowed to take reservations and patrons are allowed to dine-in at restaurants. The Governor said his Administration continues the delicate dance of trying to balance the three-legged stool that is the Territory’s response to the pandemic.

“We are trying to protect the public health and avoid our people from becoming ill, ending up in the hospital or dying from this virus,” Governor Bryan said.

“We are trying to maintain our economy and keep our people gainfully employed and our small businesses from failing. Finally, we are trying to maintain your personal freedoms and allow you to enjoy the greatest quality of life that we can afford you during these times.I don’t take great pleasure in restricting the free movement and activities of our citizens, but we will do what we must to keep all of us safe,” Governor Bryan said.

 

The Bureau of Internal Revenue will complete its finalization of the Social Security listing this week for those who are due a COVID stimulus payment. The Administration expects to distribute about $8 million to Social Security recipients next week.

Governor Bryan Remembers Civil Rights Icon and Long-Serving Congressman John Lewis

July 18, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr, issued the following statement Saturday in remembrance of civil rights icon and long-serving congressman John Lewis:

"Today the world lost a giant, and the freedom struggle, a leader and icon. Congressman Lewis spent his entire life fighting for racial, social, and economic equality. His bravery in the bloody campaign to end racial segregation shaped our nation for the better. The continued fight for justice and equality and the spirit of standing up for what is right will be his enduring legacy. I extend my heartfelt condolences to his loved ones and everyone who has had the privilege of working with him at some time or another during his decades-long struggle for civil rights."

Governor Bryan Orders USVI Flags Flown at Half-Staff In Honor of Revered Virgin Islands Statesman Ron de Lugo

July 17, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has issued an executive order that all U.S. Virgin Islands flags in the Territory are to be flown at half-staff in honor of revered statesman Ron de Lugo, starting today, Friday, July 17 until sunset on Friday, July 24.

Also, on Friday, the Governor asked the White House to allow all U.S. flags in the Territory to be flown at half-staff.

Mr. de Lugo, a former Virgin Islands senator and the longest-serving Congressional delegate for the Territory, died Tuesday, July 14. He was 89.

“He was a pragmatic statesman who carried the torch of political progress for the Virgin Islands and the other insular territories in the U.S. Congress for more than two decades. Growing up, he was a household name, known not only for his political service but also for his commentary on local talk radio,” Governor Bryan said. “Our thoughts are with his family, loved ones, and all in the Virgin Islands community who mourn his loss. Ron de Lugo will always be remembered for his historic contributions to the political empowerment of the people of the Virgin Islands.”

In 1948, Mr. de Lugo served two years in the U.S. Army as a Program Director for the Armed Forces Radio Network, and, after returning to the Virgin Islands he remained in broadcasting and helped form WSTA, the first radio station on St. Thomas, and was known on the air as “Mango Jones.” He also was instrumental with helping revive the St. Thomas Carnival in 1952.

In 1955, Mr. de Lugo moved with his family to St. Croix and became the second youngest member of the Virgin Islands Legislature, serving from 1962 to 1966. In 1972, he lobbied for the creation of a seat in Congress for a nonvoting representative from the Virgin Islands and subsequently won an elected seat to serve as the Territory’s first Delegate to Congress. He served 10 terms of extraordinary service on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands as Delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives before retiring

Mr. de Lugo always will be remembered for his historic contributions to the political empowerment of the people of the Virgin Islands by securing for the Territory:

• the right to elect its own governor • a delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives • for that delegate to have seniority and a vote in committee • the right to write its own constitution • the authority to exercise the people-power rights of initiative, referendum and recall • the right to have the Adjutant General of the Virgin islands appointed by the Governor of the Virgin Islands.

In 1994, the 20th Legislature of the Virgin Islands presented Mr. de Lugo with the Virgin Islands Medal of Honor, and in 2002, the 107th Congress designated the Federal Building in Charlotte Amalie the Ron De Lugo Federal Building and United States Court House.

The Virgin Islands Mourns the Death of Former Delegate to Congress Ron de Lugo

July 14, 2020

The longest serving Delegate to Congress for the US Virgin Islands passed away at the age of 90.

Ron De Lugo was elected as a Democratic Delegate to the United States House of Representatives, serving from January 3, 1973 to January 3, 1979.

De Lugo chose not to seek re-election to the U.S. House in 1978 in order to pursue a bid for Governor of the United States Virgin Islands. De Lugo challenged incumbent Democratic Governor Juan Francisco Luis in the 1978 gubernatorial election. He chose Eric E. Dawson, a Senator in the Legislature of the Virgin Islands, as his running mate for lieutenant governor. Governor Juan Luis defeated de Lugo in the gubernatorial general election on November 7, 1978. Gov. Luis and Lt. Henry Millin won 10,978 votes, or 59.2% of the total vote. De Lugo and Dawson placed second, garnering 7,568 votes, or 40.8%. Luis won all three of the U.S. Virgin Islands' main islands in the election.

He was elected to the House again, serving from January 3, 1981 to January 3, 1995. He was a resident of Saint Croix. 

USVI governor Albert Bryan issued the following statement extending his heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of longtime Virgin Islands Senator and Delegate to Congress:

“Yolanda and I are saddened to learn of the passing of former Virgin Islands Senator and longtime Delegate to Congress Ron de Lugo.

“Ron was a pragmatic statesman who carried the torch of political progress for the Virgin Islands and the other insular territories in the U.S. Congress for more than two decades. Growing up, he was a household name, known not only for his political service but also for his commentary on local talk radio. Our thoughts are with his family, loved ones, and all in the Virgin Islands community who mourn his loss.'

Governor Bryan Delays Reopening of Territory’s Schools

July 13, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his COVID-19 update on Monday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said he is delaying the reopening of the Territory’s schools until at least September 8 as the virus pandemic continues to surge in the Virgin Islands.

Governor Bryan also said that the outbreak at Limetree Bay Terminal on St. Croix continues and that his Administration was informed just prior to his update of an additional 16 positive cases of COVID-19 at the refinery.

The Governor said that opening schools on August 10 would require 100% online learning, which is less than optimal, and that there are three primary benefits of delaying the start of school until at least September 8:

• Children have a better chance of having a school year with less virtual classes of there is a vaccine late this year or early next year. • The Administration anticipates having a flatter curve and less community spread by or after September 8 as more states move to masking policies and the national surge dies down. • Education officials will gain the benefit of lessons learned from those school districts that have opened up early and will be able to avoid the same mistakes.

“This is an active conversation happening stateside and locally as every school district in the country is debating the safest way to proceed with the reopening of schools during the pandemic surge without compromising the education of our children or their health and the health of the school faculty,” Governor Bryan said. “The Department of Education has drafted its school reopening plan that complies with the Department of Health and CDC guidelines issued last week. Public discussions of that plan will start this week as they move to gather stakeholder input.”

Limetree Bay and the Virgin Islands Department of Health have significantly increased testing contract workers at the refinery and ramped up contact-tracing to test everyone who may have come into contact with the COVID-positive individuals. These measures are in addition to a moratorium on more contract workers traveling to the Territory, temperature scans at the gates and a two-week restriction on the Man Camp and contract workers.

The Governor said he has a follow-up meeting scheduled with Limetree management to determine what further measures, and he gave a breakdown of the testing of Limetree workers:

• 2,685 total workers • 985 live inside the Man Camp and 1,700 live outside, half of whom are locals • 1,386 tested, with 69 positive cases – 40 outside the Man Camp and 29 inside the Man Camp • 59 of the 69 positive cases exhibited no symptoms and do not feel sick • Limetree is testing more than 300 people per day

USVI Department of Human Services Addresses Positive COVID-19 Test of Employee

July 13, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Virgin Islands Department of Health has confirmed that a Department of Human Services employee has tested COVID positive this weekend.

“Though the Department of Human Services has implemented COVID-19 practices to help prevent the spread of the virus, we know that the risk of contracting the infection exists, especially as our exposure to COVID-19 increases daily as the territory’s numbers increase,” said Commissioner of the Department of Human Services (DHS) Kimberly Causey-Gomez.

“The reality that we all now have to face is that several of our local agencies have positive cases and we must all follow best practices in order to protect ourselves and others while we continue operations. We are working in close connection with the Department of Health to ensure availability of prompt testing and in tandem with the testing, we have implemented enhanced sanitizing and additional prevention measures”, she further explained.

All staff and close contacts of the affected unit have been notified to ensure their safety within the parameters of HIPAA guidelines to protect the individual’s identity. Additionally, DHS is working to provide support to the impacted staff member and their family. The individual is in stable condition and recovering at home.

CURRENT ACTIONS BEING TAKEN:

• Specific staff members of the impacted unit have been advised of the current status and of detailed next steps. • A notification was sent to all staff advising of the COVID 19 positive result of one of the  team members. • DHS has arranged for testing of all impacted persons within the auspices of DHS through the Department of Health. • Professional sanitization and cleaning (of the impacted area) is being conducted this week.

 

VI Gov’t Closes Illegal Horse Racing in Williams Delight

July 11, 2020

Citing various violations, the VI government went on the close the site where horse racing was being held in Williams Delight.

According to the VIPD, the decision was based on several complains the sport poses for residents and attendees.

VIPD stated that it has responded to the track, which the organizers renamed as “Williams Delight Downs” on several occasions for the past 2 years and once the officers leave the area, the activity would continue. The VIPD would even place immobilized vehicles on the path in attempt to curtail the races and the illegal betting. Those vehicles were removed by attendees so that they can continue their races.

On Thursday, the police requested assistance from the Dept. of Public Works to damage the track in a final effort to stop the activity.

Government House issued a statement on the matter as well.

“The Virgin Islands Government cannot ignore illegal activity once brought to our attention. And while I understand the frustration with the action taken to end this illegal horse racing activity, it is done out of the Government’s responsibility to protect our residents’ safety. I want the sport of horse racing to return to the territory but in a manner that does not jeopardize the safety of the spectators, jockeys, and the horses and certainly not in a manner that encourages illegal activity. Our administration has supported the VIGL proposal to reconstruct the horse tracks and conduct live racing in St. Croix and St. Thomas and we have intervened on several occasions to allow that proposal to be fully implemented. I believe that project represents the standard in which horse racing should be conducted in the territory,” Governor Bryan said.

The violations include:

• Trespassing. The property owner had sought police assistance in removing trespassers from their property.

• The activities at this property were not sanctioned by the Horse Racing Commission

. • The participants and spectators were engaged in illegal and unauthorized betting and gambling.

• The racing surface was dangerous for the riders and their horses.

• The activity posed a danger to spectators who were often within feet of the horses as they were running.

• The activities violated the current State of Public Health Emergency restrictions on mass gathering. The spectators were not adhering to safe social distancing, and on at least on one occasion which was filmed on social media, spectators were observed not using facial coverings.

Watch: Governor Bryan on Williams Delight Horse Racing

Governor Bryan Tightens Restrictions On Air Arrivals, Beaches and Bars

July 9, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said during his COVID-19 update on Thursday that beginning Wednesday, July 15, residents of 10 states that are hotspots for the COVID-19 virus must present test results showing they have tested negative for it or quarantine upon their arrival into the Territory.

Governor Bryan also issued an order closing bars and prohibiting sitting or standing at bars in restaurants, and he ordered beaches to close at 4 p.m. on the weekends.

“You are likely aware that there has been a significant uptick in positive COVID cases over the past few weeks in several states. We are now feeling the effects of that surge,” Governor Bryan said.

“For the last couple of weeks, the COVID task force and I have deliberated over the best way to keep our community insulated from what is happening stateside. We have considered several strategies to screen travelers from states that are experiencing a surge in active cases before they enter the territory,” Governor Bryan said. “Like most states facing this very same dilemma, we adopted what appears to be the consensus approach. It is the approach being used by the New England states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.”

The Government of the Virgin Islands will use data compiled and aggregated by Johns Hopkins University that is updated daily and has set a threshold of 10% positivity – 10 or more positive cases per 100,000 population – to determine which states fall under the new requirements.

Those states are: Alabama; Arizona; Florida; Georgia; Idaho; Kansas; Mississippi; Nevada; South Carolina; and Texas.

Passengers arriving in the Territory whose flights originated in any of those states will either have to self-quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in the territory or produce proof of a negative test for COVID-19 that was taken within 5 days prior to their arrival on island. If a test is administered after arrival into the Virgin Islands and the test result is negative, they can stop quarantining.

Governor Bryan also ordered tighter restrictions on all bars throughout the territory, including bars within hotels and restaurants. All bars are closed and patrons are prohibited from sitting or standing at bars, although they can order a drink and take it back to their table. The goal is to avoid congregating at bar counters. The 11 p.m. “last call” and midnight closure remain in effect.

Additionally, beaches will be closed at 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays until further notice. Restrictions on mass gatherings remain in effect, and events or parties that will encourage large congregations of people are prohibited.

The Governor also has worked with Limetree Bay management to tighten requirements at the St. Croix refinery.

In addition to the temporary hold on incoming travel for Limetree contractors and tracking the movement of refinery workers, Limetree has locked down the Man Camp for two weeks and asked contractors living outside of it to self-isolate for 14 days. Following a meeting with Governor Bryan on Wednesday, Limetree management has volunteered to conduct testing of 100% of their employees on rotation moving forward.

V.I. Fire Service Acquires Quick Attack Utility Vehicle For Water Island Through USDA Forestry Grant

July 9, 2020

WATER ISLAND, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – In a continued effort to support Water Island Search and Rescue (WISAR) and to ensure the safety of the residents of the island, the Virgin Islands Fire Service (VIFS) has acquired a John Deere XUV for use by VIFS and WISAR personnel.

VIFS utilized funding from a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Service to purchase the utility vehicle, which is equipped with a tank that can hold up to 150 gallons of fire suppression additive.

“The Virgin Islands Fire Service appreciates the work WISAR does to protect the residents and visitors of Water Island and is pleased to partner with the volunteer organization,” said Virgin Islands Fire Service Director Daryl A. George Sr. “This new equipment can be used for small fires and brush fires and will help to improve both VIFS and WISAR’s operations on Water Island.”

$307K Obligated to DSPR to Renovate the Aubain Ballpark Facility

July 9, 2020.

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – The Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation has been obligated $306,950 to refurbish the Aubain Ballpark Facility. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), through its Public Assistance Program (PA), will fund the refurbishment of the ballpark located in the center of Frenchtown on the western end of Charlotte Amalie.

The park is a mainstay of the Frenchtown community, hosting events such as Bastille Day, the Father’s Day Village, the Christmas Festival of Lights Competition, various sporting activities, and youth initiatives.

Since the hurricanes in 2017, DSPR received donations to temporarily repair portions of the facility so that it can be safely utilized but, this obligation will be used to reconstruct the park’s facilities.

“The Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation continues to work diligently to return all park facilities to their pre-disaster condition,” said the Commissioner of the Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation, Mr. Calvert White. “The DSPR thanks ODR, FEMA, and the community for their unwavering support.”

The scoreboard, field lighting, covered bleachers, dugouts, press building, concession stand, fencing, and batting cage will all be replaced. The park’s renovations will also include the restoration of 5,500 square feet of playground space.

The Office of Disaster Recovery (ODR) has been working closely with FEMA to award funding to restore the territories recreational facilities,” Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, ODR Director. “This award follows on the heels of recent obligations to renovate the Emile Griffith Ballpark, Cramers Park, St. John Community Center, and Fort Frederik Beach. The ODR thanks our federal partners for these recent allocations to refurbish communal recreation sites. Rebuilding local parks will return a sense of stability to communities damaged by the 2017 storms.” The Department of Sports Parks and Recreation will be issuing solicitations to engage a contractor to repair the facilities.

Solicitation and other pertinent recovery information can be found by visiting http://www.usviodr.com/.

DSPR Awarded $2.6M to Retrofit the St. John Community Center

July 8, 2020

ST. JOHN, U.S. Virgin Islands – The Office of Disaster Recovery announces the award of $2.6M to the Virgin Islands Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation (DSPR) for the retrofit of the Community Center on St. John. The dual-phased project funded by FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) will include the reconstruction of the DSPR community center and the adjacent building into one 14,232 square foot, two-story structure off Fish Fry Drive.

Located in the heart of Cruz Bay, plans for the proposed site include a recreation room, vocational center, study hall, computer lab, and office spaces. It will also incorporate an outdoor play area for after school and summer camp programs.

“The Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation thanks the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for the funding that will aid in rebuilding the St. John Community Center and services to the residents on St. John,” said the Commissioner of the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation, Mr. Calvert White. “Residents will also see an expansion in the services offered with innovative technical courses and children’s programs.”

The new multi-purpose community center will be retrofitted for use as a shelter and safe room designed to withstand hurricane-force winds. The building will be constructed to meet FEMA’s standards for safe room construction equipped with back-up power, including a ramp and elevator to ensure ADA compliance to accommodate all members of the St. John community.

Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Director of the Office of Disaster Recovery, said, “This is a tremendous opportunity. Not only will FEMA support the restoration of the community center but also the development of a much-needed shelter and safe room providing residents with an accessible and comfortable location to shelter in the event of a natural disaster.”

This award covers Phase I, architectural engineering and design, and could take approximately six months to complete once the solicitation is released. Phase II, demolition, and construction will begin after the contract is awarded and is slated to take just under two years.

Governor Bryan Issues Travel Restrictions For Residents of Arizona, Florida and Texas

July 7, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said during his weekly COVID-19 update that beginning Monday, July 13, residents of Arizona, Florida and Texas must present test results showing they are negative for COVID-19 or positive for COVID-19 antibodies upon their arrival into the Territory.

Test should be taken within 72 hours of arriving in the U.S. Virgin Islands, or visitors can opt to take a test when they arrive. Individuals who do not show test results or take a test locally must go into a 14-day quarantine.

The new travel policy will be reassessed after two weeks to determine whether states need to be added to or removed from the list.

“I must note that so far, we have had only three tourists who have tested positive for the virus since June 1, when we reopened,” Governor Bryan said. “We as locals need to be vigilant about our family and friends returning home and insist that they get tested before they come and limit their interaction with the general community for 14 days no matter where they are coming from.”

The Governor said the policy applies to residents of the three states on the list or people who have spent a significant amount of time in any of those states, but it does not apply to travelers who are passing through, such as to change planes in Fort Lauderdale or Miami.

“This recent spike in COVID-positive cases in the Territory is alarming, yes. But this is what we have been preparing for,” Governor Bryan said. “We built up our capacity and are in a much better position to handle this ow than we were in early March. We continue to find ways to expand our testing capacity. We have more beds, more ventilators and more data on how to control spread and battle surges.”

Limetree Bay Refinery

The Governor also said that increased safety measures have been put in place at the Limetree Bay refinery on St. Croix. Effective immediately, there is a temporary hold on incoming travel of new contractors into the Territory.

The refinery also has instituted controls on the movement into and out of the man camp and trying to restrict as much as possible the people leaving and returning to the facility.

“We continue our efforts to guard against an outbreaking the facility and after an emergency meeting this weekend with the management of Limetree, we have implemented increased measures to keep the employees and our community safe,” Governor Bryan said.

COVID-19 cases

Currently tracking 27 active cases* 3,231 individuals tested to date* 3,118 of those tests were negative* 112 tests came back positive *56 tests are pending 6 fatalities to date *One COVID-19 patient is hospitalized at Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix. No COVID-19 patients are hospitalized at Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas.

Governor Bryan Requests 60-Day Extension To State of Emergency Declaration

.July 6, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has requested from the 33rd Legislature a 60-day extension to the State of Emergency declaration that was enacted on March 13 and extended on May 11.

The current State of Emergency is set to expire on July 11, but Governor Bryan is requesting an extension to September 9, 2020.

“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,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter to Senate President Novelle Francis Jr.

“The Virgin Islands Department of Health awaits results of tests conducted daily on additional individuals,” Governor Bryan wrote. “Extending the State of Emergency for an additional 30 days or greater amount of time is critical to enabling the Territory to implement adequate staffing coverage, obtain and utilize medical supplies and continue control measures for mitigating the risks.”

In his letter, Governor Bryan said the current recommended plan of action for the Territory is to continue to address the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic following those outlined by the president and adapted by the Virgin Islands Health Department and the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency.

Governor Bryan also explained why he is asking for a 60-day extension.

“This will allow us together to extend the periods of State of Emergency for a greater amount of time, 60 days for this particular extension, and avoid having to call a session every month while unnecessarily exposing the Legislature and its staff to the possibility of COVID-19,” Governor Bryan wrote.

Man Dies from Injuries in Auto Accident on St. Thomas Highway

July 5, 2020.

 

ST. THOMAS, USVI – On July 5 at approximately 5:01 a.m., the 911 Emergency Call Center dispatched officers to the Weymouth Rhymer Highway, in the area of the Donoe Road intersection, to a report of an automobile collision. Upon arrival, officers found evidence of a collision between a minivan and a motorcycle. The body of an unresponsive male was lying in the eastbound lane.

nvestigation revealed that the minivan was traveling west on the roadway, as the motorcycle traveled east. The vehicles collided and the motorcyclist was thrown from the motorcycle as a result of the collision. Emergency Medical Technicians on the scene concluded that the rider of the motorcycle had no signs of life. The driver of the minivan was transported to the Roy L. Schneider Regional Medical Center for treatment and released.

The rider of the motorcycle was identified as 32-year-old Rudy Jeanne.

Governor Bryan Orders Beaches Closed Early This Weekend, Bars to Stop Serving at 11 p.m. Until Further Notice

July 2, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — In an effort to mitigate the growing spread of the COVID-19 virus in the Territory, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has ordered all beaches to be closed at 4 p.m. for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, and all bars are ordered to stop serving, and alcohol sales Territory-wide are to end at 11 p.m. until further notice.

The Governor also has instituted stricter measures for travelers who enter the U.S. Virgin Islands and his Administration and the Virgin Islands Department of Health are working with Limetree Bay CEO Brian Lever to institute more aggressive health protocols for contract workers arriving from the mainland to work at the facility on St. Croix.

This long weekend presents a real and very valid concern for us, as it is traditionally a time where Virgin islanders get together at the beaches and at community events to celebrate Emancipation Day on July 3 and Independence Day on July 4,” Governor Bryan said. “We continue to have instances of individuals not following the social distancing guidelines issued by the Department of Health, not adhering to the restrictions on mass gatherings and not wearing their facial coverings in public places.

“Just one errant carrier can wreak havoc on our delicate health care system by creating dozens of infections,” the Governor said. “Going into this long holiday weekend, we have taken some pre-emptive measures to help reduce the recurrence of these types of incidents, particularly at our bars and at the beaches.”

Effective Friday, July 3, through Sunday, July 5, all beaches in the Territory will be closed at 4 p.m. daily and must be vacated by then. The beaches will reopen at 6 a.m.

he Governor advised residents not to wait until 4 p.m. to leave and to start packing up by 3 p.m. He also said he is mindful of residents who exercise at the beaches and who go there for a respite from the stress and depression caused by the COVID-19 spread and resurgence.

“This is almost the fourth month now that we’re dealing with this virus. People are starting to get depressed and being locked up all weekend, that’s not either in terms of mental health,” Governor Bryan said. “That was the logic behind 4 o’clock, to give families an opportunity to take their kids to the beach, get a little dip and go home.”

Starting Thursday, July 2 – and until further notice – all bars must close by midnight until 6 a.m. the following day. They also are restricted from serving any drinks after 11 p.m until 8 a.m. the following day.

Also until further notice, stores are prohibited from selling alcohol after 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning.

“This is not for the weekend; this is until further notice. That means until we start to see a decrease in the spread of what is going on in the states,” Governor Bryan said. “As a reminder, wear your mask when you go into an establishment. Wear your mask when you’re not taking a drink. This is for your safety. We all know how alcohol has an effect on the inhibitions of humans. Please, wear your mask.

Governor Bryan also is instituting a 14-day quarantine for people who are arriving from high infections rate states, such as Texas and Florida.

Visitors will have to produce COVID-19 test results that were taken within 72 hours of their arrival that show they are negative. If they don’t do that, they will have the option of taking a COVID-19 test upon their arrival and must stay in quarantine until they get results that they are negative. Visitors who don’t take the test must quarantine for 14 days.

“We’re putting together the list of states that will be there, most definitely Texas is one of them, and Florida, as they are certainly starting to spike at this point,” Governor Bryan said.

 

 

Governor Bryan Proclaims Virgin Islands Freedom Week

June 30, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has issued a proclamation declaring June 29-July 2 – the same week Virgin Islanders celebrate Emancipation Day and Independence Day – as Virgin Islands Freedom Week and National Caribbean American Heritage Month.

“The United States Virgin Islands continues to contribute to the historic heritage narratives, notable achievements of excellence, cultural legacy quests and self-determination liberties with its unique and diverse representation of people, culture, heritage, technology and spirit of the Caribbean,” Governor Bryan said.

The annual observance of National Caribbean American Heritage Month is designated for commemorations, recognitions and celebrations for people of Caribbean ancestry in the Virgin Islands, Caribbean Americas and globally to reaffirm their multicultural ties.

“Virgin Islanders have been active participants on the world stage of ingenuity, communications, trade, international diplomacy, education, art, medicine, law, architecture/engineering, literature and many other fields,” Governor Bryan said.

July 3, Emancipation Day in the Territory, celebrates the day in 1848 that slaves on St. Croix followed Moses General Buddhoe Gottlieb and Admiral Martin King and marched on Frederiksted, demanding the freedom of enslaved Africans. They pulled up the whipping post and tossed it into the sea and marched on Fort Frederik and threatened to burn down the town and the entire island unless Governor General Peter Von Scholten freed them.

Minutes before the deadline, Governor Von Scholten arrived from St. Thomas and declared: “All unfree in the Danish West Indies are from today free,” freeing all enslaved persons in the Danish West Indies from the bonds of chattel.

“I urge all people of the Virgin Islands to take a moment and reflect that had it not been for the brave efforts of our ancestors that came before us, we would have never been able to enjoy and experience the freedoms that we have today, and to also remember our heritage; it is who we are as a people and a culture,” Governor Bryan said.

Governor Bryan Warns Residents to ‘Mask Up’ For Long Fourth of July Weekend

June 29, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said during his weekly COVID-19 update that at this point he is not planning to close the beaches for the long July 4th weekend, but he warned residents to “Mask Up” if they plan to celebrate the holiday at the beach or elsewhere.

“The only thing that is giving me pause to shut down the beaches is that we only have four active cases and the other 50% of cases we found other than food service workers are travelers,” Governor Bryan said. “We would have seen these traveling cases no matter what we did. I am also given some level of comfort knowing that we have a ‘No Mask, No Service’ policy in place.

“I would be disingenuous if I did not share with you that the virus is very much alive in our community, and the place that you are most likely to get it is anywhere you don’t have your mask on, so Mask Up,” the Governor said.

Governor Bryan said the Territory has seen a 20% increase in COVID-19 cases from May and that 50% of the people who have contracted the virus have been associated with the food service industry.

“In fact, the most vulnerable place that you can be is a bar or restaurant, as this is the only place that you don’t have to wear a mask,” Governor Bryan said. “Ironically, though, it is the workers who are turning up with the virus. Please, if you work in a bar or restaurant, please keep your masks on and wash your hands frequently.”

School Reopening Survey

Governor Bryan also asked residents – parents, students and teachers – to take the Virgin Islands Department of Education survey about the reopening of schools, which can be found on the department’s website at www.vide.vi.

The Department of Education currently is considering three options for conducting the 2020-2021 school year in the public schools: in-person learning; long-distance or online learning; or a combination of the two.

The Department also has convened a school reopening advisory board that includes local and national health and safety professionals and other key stakeholders to ensure the Territory can safely reopen schools in August.

“This is a matter of great concern and high priority for us at this moment as we continue to monitor the spread of the virus on the mainland and here in the Territory,” Governor Bryan said. “What we do concerning the reopening of the schools in August is solely dependent on what happens with the virus in June and July.

Bureau of Motor Vehicles Announces Special Operating Hours in the St. Croix and St. Thomas Districts

June 25, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS— Director Barbara Jackson-McIntosh is advising the public that the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) Offices on St. Croix and St. Thomas will conduct special operating hours on Saturday, June 27,2020, from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm.

During this time, the bureau will only process transactions for customers who submitted their documents via the drop box in each office on or before June 22, 2020.

Director McIntosh thanks the community for their understanding during this public health emergency, the BMV will continue to employ innovative ways to ensure that the public is expediently served.

 

Governor Bryan Signs Executive Order Establishing Advisory GERS Funding Task Force

June 23, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Monday signed an executive order establishing an Advisory GERS Funding Task Force to create a funding plan for the Government Employees’ Retirement System.

“While we await the Senate’s approval of other proposals I have made to shore up the Government Employees’ Retirement System, the Bryan/Roach Administration will continue to find and all possible plans to keep this vital system solvent,” Governor Bryan said.

The task force will consist of 12 members – including a member selected by the Delegate to Congress; two members chosen by the Senate President; one member who is a retired government employee; and one government employee with less than 8 years’ experience and who is 35 or younger – who will act as advisors to Governor Bryan and will meet monthly and continuously until their mission is accomplished.

“I look forward to the recommendations of a task force of financial, business, tax and real estate experts, along with other experts from the private sector who will focus on the crisis facing the pension system for current and retired government workers,” Governor Bryan said.

The Advisory GERS Funding Task Force is charged with:

• Exploring options for a short-term bailout or temporary options and more permanent restructuring of the retirement system that incorporates and applies to current and future retirees.

Governor Bryan Submits Amended Legislation For Senate to OK $60 Million Revenue Anticipation Note

June 22, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — After further discussions with financial institutions to finalize and set the loan terms, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has submitted to the 33rd Legislature an amended request for approval of a $60 million Revenue Anticipation Note, which was approved by the Senate in March.

The money will be used to supplement government operations in the wake of the financial devastation in the Territory from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill originally was passed by the 33rd Legislature on March 27, 2020, and was signed into law by Governor Bryan on April 14, 2020. That Act has been repealed and rescinded in its entirety to incorporate borrowing terms between the banks and the government for the funds.

The Governor’s proposed measure will authorize the use of any available source of public funds to issue revenue anticipation notes for working capital to supplement government operations amid the downturn in revenue collections as a result of COVID-19.

Governor Bryan said in March, when he initially sent the proposed legislation down to the Senate that while the public health and safety of the territory’s residents is his primary concern and the focus of the government’s response, it is also important to proactively plan for the economic impact of the pandemic.

“The Coronavirus has impacted the global, national, and local economies substantially, and the Virgin Islands has, as a consequence, experienced and expects to continue to experience, among other economic factors, significant disruption to the travel and cruise tourism industry,” Governor Bryan said at the time.

The proposed legislation also would authorize the Governor to: *Negotiate the final terms of all borrowing vehicles approved by the legislation as the Governor and the Public Finance Authority deem necessary. *Execute and deliver all documents and agreements necessary in connection with the borrowing. *Pay all expenses associated with the issuance of any authorized borrowing.

The legislation also would require the Virgin Islands Department of Finance to report to the Senate Finance Committee no later than 15 business days following any draw of principal borrowed and provide information regarding the purpose for which the funds were used, as well as a description of the source of the repayment.

The interest rate on any revenue anticipation notes or bonds would not exceed 6 percent, and the maximum principal amount that can be borrowed is capped at $60 million.

VI Budget Hearings: VIPD Defends its $62M for Fiscal Year 2021

June 19, 2020

VI Budget hearings have began this week in St. Thomas on the FY 2021 proposed Executive Budget from Governor Albert Bryan.

On Wednesday, Jennifer O'neal OMB Director, defended the proposed budgetof $25.9M for her department, but she noted that OMB strategically crafted a reformed budget for each department in alignment with the Governor’s Management Agenda.

meanwhile, on Thursday, The VIPD appeared before the finance committee and requested $62 M. Commissioner Trevor Velinor and his leadership team defended his budget and stressed that the police department has often been tasked to do more with less.

During the hearing, members were asked a series of questions related to the consent decree, strategic plan, and federal grants to name a few. VIPD has made significant strides to be released from the consent decree, complying with more than 90 of 104 paragraphs. Through continuous training, monitoring and accountability, the Department is hopeful the end of the consent decree is near.

A strategic plan to span the next three to five years is being developed and will incorporate employee and community engagement. To build community trust, all stakeholders must play a role in its creation. To ensure strategies and processes that are established are sustainable, the plan must be crafted and completed in phases.

As a recipient of multiple federal grants, the Department must adhere to federal guidelines. Submittal of project proposals and request for subgrantees to apply for funding are ongoing to expend the designated funds.

In a recent communication to employees, Commissioner Velinor remarked, “We must be good stewards of our finances, maximizing the strength of every dollar spent.” He projects VIPD will spend approximately $10 million less this fiscal year than was expended last fiscal year.

Also appearing on Thursday before the committee was Director of the Law & Enforcement Commission, Ray Martinez, who indicated that in comparison to the General Fund allotment for FY 2020 of $814,658, there is a more than $50, 000 reduction in the FY 2021 budget.

Governor Bryan Issues Summer Reading Challenge To Territory’s K-6 Students to ‘Read 5’

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. issued his Summer Reading Challenge to the Territory’s students in kindergarten through sixth grade, urging them to “Read 5” to keep their minds sharp and maintain their learning and education during the summer.

“Reading is so fundamental for a brighter future, and nothing should stop you, not even COVID-19,” Governor Bryan says in a public service announcement promoting the reading program. “This year, my Summer Reading Challenge for grades K through 6 is going virtual.”

Students can participate by going to www.readfive.org and choose from dozens of books there to read or borrow for the program. To borrow a book virtually, students should first register for free at www.openlibrary.org, and a copy of the borrowed book will download onto the student’s device.

Students also can read books that they have at home for the challenge.

tudents also can find electronic tracking sheets to fill out online and submit for each book they read, and their submissions will be entered into a database to keep track of students’ progress and make sure they receive credit for participating in and completing the Summer Reading Challenge.

The Summer Reading Challenge began Wednesday, June 17 and runs through September 18.

“If you read five or more, you meet the challenge, and you get invited to my big celebration,” Governor Bryan said. Bryan. “Stay safe. Stay sanitized. And, read five.”

Governor Bryan Announces ‘Healthier Horizons’ Initiative, Sweeping Healthcare Reform for U.S. Virgin islands

June 15, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Monday announced the start of his “Healthier Horizons” initiative, a sweeping reform of healthcare in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Healthier Horizons is built on a foundation of three tenets:

Increasing access to healthcare, modernizing the delivery of health services to residents & facilitating the rebuilding of our healthcare infrastructure.

“My office, along with Commissioner Justa Encarnacion, Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez, Dr. Julia Sheen and other agencies of the Administration have been steadily advancing a series of health initiatives to increase access to healthcare, modernize the delivery of health services to residents, and strategically facilitate the rebuilding of our healthcare infrastructure,” Governor Bryan said during a press conference Tuesday at Government House in Christiansted.

Under the “Healthier Horizons” umbrella, there are 11 primary elements designed to upgrade and modernize healthcare in the Territory:

Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Health Information Exchange, Telehealth and Telemedicine Act, Interstate Medical Compacts, V.I. Fire Service and EMS Integration, Emergency Medical Services Regulation, Associated Health Plans, Community Health Improvement Plan, Healthy Housing Initiative, Hospital and Health Facilities Improvements,Medicinal Cannabis.

“All of these health initiatives represent the type of progressive thinking necessary to transform our healthcare system given our limited resources,” Governor Bryan said. “I sincerely believe they will revolutionize the way we approach healthcare in the Virgin Islands for many years to come.”

Almost all of the 11 initiatives under Healthier Horizons already are in varying stages of progress.

Governor Bryan has submitted legislation to the 33rd Legislature regarding several of the “Healthier Horizons” elements, including the Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act; a bill to create the V.I. Fire and Emergency Medical Services; and the Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Act.

In addition, Governor Bryan launched a Telehealth Workgroup in January comprising members of the public and private sectors, including the Department of Health; Department of Human Services; LAN Communications; Broadband VI; Viya; The Plessen Group; TADAH; Continuum Care; V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency; Witt O’Brien’s; the Public Services Commission, V.I. Next Generation Network; Inner Circle Logistics; Island Analytics; and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Telehealth Policy Workgroup has drafted legislation to create the Virgin Islands Telehealth Act, is developing Medicaid telehealth policies and providing guidance to the Health Insurance Board on recommended telehealth insurance coverage. The legislation for the Virgin Islands Telehealth Act currently is undergoing final review, and Governor Bryan expects to send it down to the Legislature within the next few weeks.

The Governor also launched the V.I. Healthy Housing Initiative, which is a partnership with local stakeholders and the Corporation for Supportive Housing to assess housing and healthcare services in four key areas: Behavioral Health, Youth Rehabilitation Services, Supportive Housing, and Elder Care Services.

The group went online last month for its initial meeting to begin a reassessment of the entire landscape of housing and healthcare-related services for at-risk residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands. A charrette is scheduled for the end of 2020 and Phase 3 of the three-phase initiative is scheduled to begin in spring 2012 with implementing recommendations and putting into place an overhauled housing and healthcare system in the Territory.

Governor Bryan also is exploring the use of interstate compacts for certain medical professions as a means to increase access to healthcare for residents, and current options include physical therapy licensure; nurse licensure and EMS Personnel Licensure. Discussions are underway with the Chambers of Commerce in the Territory about establishing Association Health Plans, which allow small businesses, including people who are self-employed, to band together and obtain healthcare as if they were a large corporation. There are at least three private insurance providers that have expressed interest in offering a proposal to provide these benefits to Chamber members.

Currently, the Department of Human Services is using a $14.9 million grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to establish a Health Information Exchange for Medicaid patients. The exchange will allow doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare providers to access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information electronically, improving the speed, safety and cost of patient care.

Additionally, repairs and enhancements to the Territory’s hospitals and clinics is ongoing, and the facilities are at varying stages of recovery from the 2017 hurricanes. 

Virgin Islanders May preview the Proposed FY 2021 Budget

June 12, 2020.

The Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jenifer C. O’Neal, informs the public of the first ever, Proposed Budget in Brief for Fiscal Year 2021. The Budget in Brief is designed to give all citizens a brief overview of the proposed budget with highlights of the Government’s operating budget, revenue projections, and Federal grants budget.

O'Neal says the Proposed Budget in Brief continues Governor Bryan’s and Lt. Governor Roach’s commitment to transparency in our service to the residents of the Virgin Islands.

The Budget in Brief is available now on the OMB’s website at https://omb.vi.gov. Printed copies will be made available for pick up Friday at Office of Management & Budget. Please call Monique C. Creque at 340-774-0750 ext. 203 to arrange for pick-up during normal business hours.

St. Croix Man Dies in Automobile Accident on Evans Highway

June 11, 2020

ST. CROIX, USVI – On June 10 at approximately 5:15 p.m., the 911 Emergency Call Center dispatched officers to an auto accident on the Melvin Evans Highway, in the vicinity of Home Depot.

Officers observed a two-vehicle accident involving a gray Ford F-150 and a white Toyota Yaris. Investigation into the accident revealed that the Toyota Yaris, traveling west, entered the eastbound lane. The Ford F-150, traveling east, collided into the Toyota Yaris, despite evasive measures taken by the driver of the Ford F-150.

Both drivers were transported to the Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center. The driver of the Ford F-150 was treated and released. The driver of the Toyota Yaris was seriously injured, and later succumbed to his injuries.

The driver of the Toyota Yaris was identified as 19-year-old Julio Carmona III.

The investigation into this accident, conducted by officers of the Traffic Investigation Bureau, is ongoing.

 

 

 

BOVONI LANDFILL RESUMES OPERATIONS FOLLOWING SCRAP METALS FIRE

June 10, 2020

(St. Thomas, USVI) - The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority  Preserving Paradise team advises the community of the resumption of operations at the Bovoni Landfill beginingTuesday, June 9 at 6 am. At this time, only household waste will be accepted; the community is asked to please hold seaweed, green waste and metals until further notice.

The Bovoni Landfill closed on Monday, June 8 at 8:20 am due to an active fire that originated in the metals section. VIWMA staff and contractors reported metals, including junked cars, were being processed for removal when a vehicle ignited causing the fire.

The fire was suppressed at 6:30 pm with the assistance of the Virgin Islands Fire Service (VIFS), VIWMA staff and contractors Sleepy’s Trucking and A-9. The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) and St. Thomas Rescue supported the firefighting efforts.

The public is strongly urged to remove engine fluids, batteries and tires from vehicles prior to disposal to prevent accidental fires and protect the environment from spills.

Governor Bryan Urges Residents to Remain Vigilant In Stopping the Spread of COVID-19 Virus

June 9, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his weekly update Monday on the status of the COVID-19 virus in the Territory, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. reminded residents that while there have been no significant increases in the number of new cases, the threat of the virus remains real.

“While we are looking good so far in our testing and number of active cases, I want to remind the public that we are still very much in this battle against the spread of COVID in the territory,” Governor Bryan said. “As a matter of fact, just this weekend I had to remind someone that we are still in a State of Emergency in the territory.”

The Governor urged residents not to let their guard down, particularly when going to bars and nightclubs. He also reminded the community to continue wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.

“We have been seeing a lot of activity around the bars, including large crowds and individuals not practicing safe social distancing. I need people to understand that patronizing these establishments places you at a higher than usual risk, so please adhere to the guidelines and take additional precautionary measures,” Governor Bryan said.

 

Governor Bryan Declares Day of Mourning To Honor George Floyd and Support Black Lives Matter Movement

June 8, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has declared that Tuesday, June 9, 2020, will be a day of mourning in honor of George Floyd and in support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, and he ordered that flags in the U.S. Virgin Islands be flown at half-staff.

“Last week I shared my thoughts on the death of George Floyd, race relations in our country and the issues of gun violence here in our local community. I was heartened to see the solidarity in our community, regardless of race, color or creed,” Governor Bryan said.

The Governor is asking residents to commit to true change by adhering to five principles:

*Strengthen the community as black people and ensure that the community is an example to those who come after us. *Take our change to the economy and support those businesses that support the residents of the Territory and social change. *Commit to register to vote and exercise that vote for leaders who will create and support policies that end racism in its raw or institutional form *Take up leadership positions in the community in the private sector, with non-profits and on boards, as well as in elected offices to ensure that these policies are implemented. As a black community, recognize that inequality and injustice should not be tolerated anywhere or to any people.* Ensure that we do not alienate other races but rather embrace them in solidarity toward equal rights and justice for all.

“Beyond this time of protests, when all the signs have faded, and the social media trending is no longer there, we must have a call to action,” Governor Bryan said.

Any and all American and USVI flags being flown at the workplace should be properly raised and lowered Tuesday, June 10, 2020, to half-staff from sunrise until sunset.

As per the protocol set by the U.S. Code, the flags should be briskly raised to full-staff first before being lowered to half-mast and lowered at the end of the day.

All flags being flown outdoors must be lowered at the end of the day at sunset unless the flagpoles are properly lit at night.

 

Governor Bryan Convenes Third CEDS Session To Strategize About Territory’s Post-COVID Economy

June 5, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Thursday convened the third meeting of his Administration of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Committee (CEDS) to talk about what the post-COVID economy will look like in the U.S. Virgin Islands and how the Territory can best adapt to the financial turmoil the virus has created.

CEDS comprises representatives of the business community, the Tourism sector and non-profits, members of Governor Bryan’s Cabinet and other community stakeholders who meet to discuss and strategize about the Territory’s short-term, mid-term and long-term economic issues and find solutions.

The meeting comes as the Territory enters Governor Bryan’s “Open Doors” phase of the Virgin Islands’ recovery from the COVID-19 virus and in the face of Fiscal Year 2020 revenues coming in about $150 million lower than expected.

Governor Bryan stressed two key points that he said are crucial to the Territory righting itself economically after the COVID-19 virus put a halt to the Territory’s recovery from the 2017 hurricanes.

One primary foundation of rapid economic recovery is to react immediately and move quickly, moving forward with a number of revenue-generating legislative initiatives the Governor’s Office has sent to the Legislature, the Governor said.

Equally important is getting the buy-in and advocacy of business leaders to make the public aware of the various economic initiatives and how they will bolster the Territory’s financial future, Governor Bryan said.

At Thursday’s CEDS meeting, Dr. Haldane Davies, Vice President for Business Development and Innovation at the University of the Virgin Islands, gave a presentation about the economic impact of disasters on the Virgin Islands and strategies going forward to mitigate it.

Dr. Davies provided an overview of the economic impact of disasters from 2015 to 2019, noting that disasters are happening with more frequency and greater economic impact, before talking about what constitutes economic resilience and how to achieve it.

According to Dr. Davies, the foundation of economic resilience encompasses:

· Research and knowledge building * Planning integration * Governance structures *Financing resources and programs * Infrastructure strategies and programs * Procurement strategies * Business continuity and risk management * Workforce support programs * Economic diversification · Counseling and technical assistance programs * Communications systems and programs

Governor Bryan Delivers FY 2021 Executive Budget Proposal

June 3, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – Governor Albert Bryan Jr. delivered his Fiscal Year 2021 Executive Budget proposal to the 33rd Legislature on Friday, ahead of the May 31 deadline required by law.

The Governor’s overall budget request is $1,224,532,219, which includes $742,779,823 for the General Fund, $33,104,434 for other appropriated funds and $290,906,550 for non-disaster related federal funds.

Governor Bryan said Friday that despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the significant shortfalls in revenue collections, the administration has prepared a balanced budget that is realistic and considers future uncertainties relating to the pandemic.

“With our projected revenues significantly reduced by $126 million when compared to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, we have to find ways to streamline Government operations while maintaining an acceptable level of service,” the Governor added.

Despite significantly reduced revenue projections, the Governor’s proposed FY 2021 budget manages to sustain a number of needed projects and other funding, including: $5 million for the Stabilization Fund, $1.5 million in scholarships for local students, $5 million set aside to fill critical vacancies, $1.475 million for Department of Education General Fund capital projects, $7.2 million for mental health services in the Department of Health, $42.7 million in Garvee Bonds highway projects, $270 million in federal funds to battle the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to be expended by the end of the first quarter.

For FY 2021, the total appropriated funds – the General Fund plus other appropriated funds – are $783,275,537.

Department expenditures – excluding cash transfers, contingencies and un-appropriated balances – for all funds for FY 2021 are $1.22 billion, compared with $1.41 billion for FY 2020.

The FY 2021 budget proposal assumes decreases, as measured from the FY 2020 adopted budget, in the local revenue streams of Personal Income Tax; Corporate Income Tax; Real Property Tax; and Gross Receipts Tax. Office of Management and Budget Director Jenifer O’Neal said the administration’s FY 2021 budget reflects the Territory’s cash shortage and the reduction of revenues as a result of Covid-19 and added that the budget still meets the Government’s mandatory obligations despite those reductions.

Spring Revenue Estimating Conference Spotlights Economic Scope and Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic

June 3, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Spring Revenue Estimating Conference for Fiscal Year 2020, which took place via a virtual meeting online on Tuesday, revealed the scope and impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had so far on the Territory’s economy.

Once again, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. attended, and he heard how all of the revenue-generating agencies in his Administration have taken a hit from the virus.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) hosts the semi-annual conferences to keep track of the Territory’s budget revenues, and the virus pandemic was cause for significant readjustment of previous projections.

OMB Director Jenifer O’Neal, who moderated the conference, explained that the original revenue projection for 2020 revenue of $868,920,011 had to be adjusted to the current post-COVID revenue projection of $718,327,197 for the rest of FY 2020.

Consequently, the revenue projection for FY 2021 currently is $742,779,823. By comparison, the actual revenue from FY 2019 was $841,939,976.

The Virgin Islands Department of Tourism has been particularly hobbled by the lack of any cruise ships sailing until late summer or early fall and a struggling airline industry that has reduced the Territory’s airlift.

The necessary steps to stop the spread of COVID-19, such as social distancing and the stay-at-home-order, also adversely affected the Leisure/Hospitality sector, halting the recovery of the Territory’s hotels, some of which were still trying to reopen from the 2017 hurricanes.

According to Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte, daily passenger arrivals into St. Thomas by air dropped from nearly 2,400 on March 14 to less than 100 by the end of March, and flights to St. Thomas from the mainland decreased from about 90 per week to 15 a week with flights operating nearly empty.

Consequently, Commissioner Boschulte said, Hotel Room Tax revenue will be significantly reduced for the year, and those collections dropped from $2,552,521 in March to $1,832,488 in April, a drop of about 28%.

According to Dr. Mark Wenner, the chief economist at the Bureau of Economic Research, estimated that for the tourist expenditures will decrease by $273 million for the rest of Fiscal Year 2020 and tax revenue will be down $150.1 million from initial forecasts for the fiscal year.

Unemployment in the Territory doubled from March to April, rising from 4.2% to 8.4%, with the two largest decreases coming in the Retail and Leisure/Hospitality sectors.

Bureau of Internal Revenue Director Joel Lee said he expects decreases in revenue from individual income tax collections, corporate income tax collections and other tax collections, which include Hotel Occupancy Tax, Highway User’s Tax and the Fuel Tax. However, Director Lee projects an uptick in Gross Receipts Tax, which has increased so far in FY 2020 by about $6.5 million over the same period in FY 2019.

Two agencies, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, projected revenue increases through the end of FY 2020 and beyond. Bureau of Motor Vehicles Director Barbara McIntosh projected a steady increase in revenue through the collection of fees, and she estimated an uptick from $10,413,045 in 2019 to $10,680,724 for 2020 and increasing at a similar rate through 2023 as the bureau expands its online services.

DLCA Commissioner Richard Evangelista, whose agency generates revenue through fees and fines, said one of his initiatives is to raise citation fees by 15% and the DLCA Enforcement Division is prioritizing the collection of delinquent license fees and penalties since 2010, which he estimated is about $15 million.

DLCA also plans to change its fee schedule for retail business licenses, and businesses will be assessed based on the size/magnitude of their operation. Under the new schedule, small retailers will be charged the current cost of $130 for a license, while medium-size retailers will be charged $260 and large businesses will be charged $390. Additionally, DLCA plans a 15% increase in fees for all other licenses by the end of FY 2020 and an additional increase by 10% in 2022.

 

USVI Officially Enters ‘Open Doors” Phase of Territory’s Plan to Safely Resume Operations in Response to COVID-19

June 1, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Before giving his weekly update on the status of the COVID-19 virus in the Territory, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. took a few minutes to address the riots across the United States and condemned racism, social inequities, and violence, while asking Virgin Islanders to support the Virgin Islands Police Department.

“I know that our officers who are of this community do their utmost best to serve and protect the citizens of our Virgin Islands in a manner that respects the rights and dignity of Virgin Islands residents,” Governor Bryan said. “They have nowhere to commute to, they go to bed every night in these very same neighborhoods. They know our people, and they know our issues, and they deserve our support, cooperation, and respect.”

However, the Governor underscored that racism and social inequity did not play a part in a recent gun battle at Oswald Harris Court housing community or the murder of a young man in Downtown Christiansted, and he called on residents to step up and report criminal activity and help root out the violence plaguing the community.

“We must have a dual plan of action that motivates young people of color to run for leadership opportunities in their community and implement policy that curbs police brutality, recruits the right officers, and provides economic access to a better way of life,” Governor Bryan said. “We must also recognize that ultimately we are all responsible for the communities that we live in, and we should be called to action, in the same way, to notify police of suspicious and criminal activity, correct our family and neighbors when they do wrong and constantly support our civil servants, like teachers, nurses and, yes, law enforcement officers.”

“Open Doors” phase of the path to a “New Normal”

Monday marked the first day of the blue phase of the Territory’s recovery from COVID-19. All restrictions against leisure travel are no longer in place. Guidance has been developed for restaurants, bars, hotels, taxis, and safaris on how to conduct their businesses while protecting the public’s health. Thermal scanners are being installed at the airports, and other measures are in place to track visitors and their health.

“Let me be clear. It is inevitable that individuals who are positive with COVID-19 will enter the Territory,” Governor Bryan said. “If they are asymptomatic, our thermal scan will not pick them up. And all the questionnaires in the world will not identify someone who doesn’t even know that they are infected.”

The Governor also said that every time the Territory crosses a new threshold of openness, there is an understandable level of anxiety in the community.

Diligence and vigilance have been our partner throughout this crisis, and that is what continues to make us successful,” he said. “I ask each of you to continue those practices that have now, for the most part, become habits in our community.”

 

Stanfield “Stan” Dumas, missing

St. Thomas Man Reported Missing

May 31, 2020

ST. THOMAS, USVI – On May 16 at approximately 5:53 p.m., 70-year-old Stanfield “Stan” Dumas was reported missing by family members. Dumas is a Black male, standing around 5 feet 10 inches in height. He was last seen around 7:31 a.m. on May 16 leaving his residence in Estate Fortuna, wearing gray pants and a green t-shirt. Family members reported that Dumas went line fishing alone in Bordeaux Bay and never returned home.

The investigation into this incident has revealed that there may have been some divers in the area that may have witnessed what happened. If you were diving in Bordeaux Bay on May 16 between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., please contact detectives. Also, anyone who may have information regarding this missing person are urged to call 911, the Criminal Investigation Bureau at (340) 774-2211 extension 5569 or Crime Stoppers USVI at (800) 222-TIPS.

Governor Bryan Initiates ‘Open Doors” Phase Of Territory’s Reopening from COVID-19

May 29, 2020.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his COVID-19 briefing Thursday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said he is initiating the blue “Open Doors” phase on the Territory’s path back to normalcy effective June 1.

“This simply means that we will allow the prohibitions on leisure travel to expire, making it easier for potential tourists to book vacations to the Territory,” Governor Bryan said.

The Governor said the territory has gotten back more than 500 tests from possibly infected individuals without encountering a positive result.

“We have effectively eliminated community spread of the virus through our actions, and the evidence is the recent lack of hospitalizations and the reduction of calls to our hotlines,” Governor Bryan said. “This is what gives us the confidence to take the next step forward.”

 

 

The Territory’s Emergency Support Agencies Collaborate for the Start of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane

May 29, 2020

U.S. Virgin Islands – The territory’s lead emergency agencies activate cooperative plans to prepare for a multi-threat response starting June 1st , the official commencement of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season is off to an early start with May already seeing two named Tropical Storms, Arthur and Bertha, however, due to on-going and frequent planning efforts, the territory’s agencies’ preparations and mitigation plans remain organized for this hurricane season which is also layered with a COVID-19 pandemic.

The Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) hosted a half day tabletop exercise last week which identified key gaps of sheltering limitations, communication systems, and the order of operations. Through identified gaps it was determined that shelter capacity will be limited this year due to the American Red Cross social distancing sheltering requirements and the challenge to recruit the ideal and typical number of volunteers persists.

“It is imperative that our faith communities, our local businesses and our not-for-profit community all come together to identify new, safe, innovative ways to prepare and shelter safely this year,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner, Kimberley Causey-Gomez. “More than ever, we need our community to do what Virgin Islanders do best and reach out to support your family, friends and neighbors so that as many people as possible can safely shelter in place.”

Virgin Islands Fire Services (VIFS) and the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) will be ready to serve in the event of a storm, and the agency is prepared to deploy personnel to conduct search and rescue operations, assist with clearing routes and brush cutting, and provide general support for disaster response and recovery efforts.

For most storms threatening the territory, Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. will declare a State of Emergency and implement hours of curfew, which means shelter in place to protect the lives of individuals before, during, and after the storm. Additionally, the Virgin Islands Police Department establishes traffic control points to minimize the risk of unsafe driving conditions and checking for curfew violators.

“A curfew is for your protection as there are unsafe conditions on the roads,” said VIPD Commissioner, Trevor Velinor. “Our control points serve a purpose to minimize the threat to drivers and protect the workers who are assessing any damages. Everyone must do their part and not put others at risk based on poor judgement.”

Starting June 1, VITEMA will be processing the 2020-2021 Curfew Passes to businesses with demonstrated justification to be on the roads during times of a curfew. The curfew pass process is located on the VITEMA website www.vitema.vi.gov in the key documents section. Business owners should plan for three weeks to allow for VITEMA to process requests and will be notified by email when their passes are ready for pick-up at the VITEMA Emergency Operation Center.

Due to the complexity of the multi-layered threats, residents are asked to take advantage of the resources that the Emergency Support Agencies provide which include: Alert VI and the Senior and Disability Disaster Registry.

For more information on maximizing these free resources, residents can contact the VITEMA Emergency Operations Centers at (340) 774-2244 on St. Thomas, (340) 773-2244 on St. Croix, and (340) 776-2244 on St. John or log on to the VITEMA website, www.vitema.vi.gov.

Senator Kenneth Gittens pushes bills to support healthcare workers

May 27, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - Senator Kenneth L. Gittens is working to alleviate some of the anxiety associated with working on the frontlines in the battle to fight COVID-19.

His coronavirus relief bills include legislation that will provide up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave to any first responders that contract the coronavirus or demonstrate a need to be quarantined, as well as offering a supplemental payment funded by the federal CARES Act due to the public health emergency. Those workers include emergency room and clinic staff, frontline Health Department and Human Services employees, emergency medical technicians, employees of the East End and Frederiksted clinics and those in the medical unit at the Bureau of Corrections.

“These dedicated public servants have diligently reported to work every shift and we can’t expect them to use their accrued leave or go without pay if they contract the virus or experience symptoms while carrying out their duties on our behalf," he said. "We must account and compensate for the risks they take each day in order to keep us safe. And it is certainly in the public interest to ensure that these workers have adequate leave to stay home and avoid infecting others if they do become ill.”

Senator Gittens said he had been working on the legislation since April in order to determine an appropriate funding source. He said the Virgin Islands Government’s essential employees are making real sacrifices and taking on considerable risks.

“Our healthcare workers and first responders go to work each day not knowing what they will be exposed to or potentially take home to their families,” Senator Gittens said. “It is important that we do whatever we can to further protect these workers and alleviate some of the stress and hardships they are experiencing everyday.”

Governor Bryan Forms Task Force To Begin V.I. Healthy Housing Initiative

May 27, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — The Office of Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has partnered with local stakeholders and the Corporation for Supportive Housing to launch the V.I. Healthy Housing Initiative to assess housing and healthcare services in four key areas, including Behavioral Health, Youth Rehabilitation Services, Supportive Housing, and Elder Care Services.

The Office of the Governor convened the V.I. Healthy Housing Task Force, which comprises representatives from the Department of Human Services; Department of Health; Virgin Islands Housing Authority; Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority; Department of Labor; Workforce Development Board; St. Croix Foundation; Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands; Lutheran Social Services; Office of Disaster Recovery; Frederiksted Health Care Inc.; St. Thomas East End Medical Corporation; Juan F. Luis Hospital; and Schneider Regional Medical Center. Members of the Project steering committee met last week via Webinar. During his welcoming remarks, Governor Bryan said the recovery projects offer an opportunity to reassess the entire landscape of housing and healthcare-related services for at-risk residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“The V.I. Healthy Housing Initiative will help us determine the best way to utilize our financial resources to either build or retrofit facilities and centers of excellence that serve persons experiencing mental illness or require substance abuse services, children needing rehabilitation services, the homeless and persons with disabilities and our elderly, who need senior services and skilled nursing homes,” Governor Bryan said.

The Healthy Housing Initiative will roll out in three phases, beginning with an assessment and inventory of the Territory’s housing and healthcare services.

Phase 2, scheduled for the end of 2020, will consist of a charrette action planning session to conduct a collaborating review of the Territory’s current housing and healthcare services and determine what additional services are needed and develop a comprehensive service and housing action plan.

VI Veterans Affairs Director Appointed to Executive Committee of National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs

May 27, 2020

The Director of the Virgin Islands Office of Veterans Affairs, Patrick D. Farrell, has recently been appointed to the executive committee of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs (NASDVA). This will mark the first time that someone from a U.S. Territory has been a part of the executive committee in its 74-year history.

NASDVA is an organization with a history dating back to 1946. The members of NASDVA represent all fifty states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Nationally, they are the second largest provider of services to veterans and their roles continue to expand.

John Hilgert, President, National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs and Director of the Nebraska Department of Veterans Affairs approved Farrell’s nomination. “We are fortunate to have Director Patrick Farrell join the Executive Committee of NASDVA. His passion of the Virgin Islands is only eclipsed by his commitment to his fellow veterans. In a national organization that represents all Territories and States, it is important to have individuals that lead by example, that are patient yet strong and always put veterans first; Director Farrell is such a leader”, said John Hilgert.

Director Farrell has been an active part of the association since first being appointed as the Director of the VI Office of Veterans Affairs in January of 2015. “As always, I am prepared to serve for the benefit of our Veterans. I am especially happy because it will mean more representation for Veterans not just in the Virgin Islands but throughout all territories of the United States. In NASDVA, all Directors / Commissioners of the territories have agreed to one agenda; To get the nation to understand that all Veterans of the United States Armed Forces must be equally visible and that we deserve equal benefits no matter where we were born or decide to live after leaving the service”, said Director Farrell.

VI Department of Labor Partners with Call Center for Info on Unemployment

May 26, 2020

The VI Department of Labor has officially secured a partnership with InTouch Call Center. While VIDOL enters the roll-out phase of this partnership, the public is invited to contact the Call Center to receive basic information as it pertains to benefits, pandemic unemployment assistance, and any other program administered in the US. Virgin Islands for COVID-19 related employment security.

The Call Center can be accessed 24/7 at the Contact Number: 1 (877) 374-0356 beginning Tuesday, May 26, 2020.

 

Governor Bryan Takes Action on 14 Bills

May 23, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. took action on 14 bills on Wednesday, approving 12 and vetoing two of the measures.

Among the bills the Governor signed into law is a measure to prevent underage drinking and a bill providing procedures for the use of credit cards for government purchases.

The two bills Governor Bryan vetoed were a measure intending to require greater expertise on the board of the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS), and a bill imposing a limit on valedictorians and salutatorians.

The Governor praised the 33rd Legislature for revisiting Bill No. 33-0297 – previously Bill No. 33-0069 – that he had vetoed for being “not well thought out” when it was drafted and would have required the Finance Department to oversee the government instrumentalities, although the department has no authority to do so.

“I am pleased to see that the 33rd Legislature was able to address the concerns expressed … in the Governor’s veto message relating to the government credit card bill in order to pass laws that are able to be effectively implemented,” Governor Bryan said in his transmittal letter to Senate President Novelle Francis Jr.

Although he approved Bill No. 33-0224, which is intended to prevent underage drinking and alcohol sales to minors, the Governor said he did so with “grave reservations,” because it is difficult to enforce and will not accomplish its intended goals unless it is amended and tailored to its true intent.

“I fully support the Legislature and any effort of enforcement aimed at discouraging and preventing underage drinking and the selling of alcohol to minors,” Governor Bryan wrote in the transmittal letter. “But this bill, by unclearly requiring identification checks at the door of an establishment does not address underage drinking directly.”

Governor Bryan said for the measure to be effective, the Legislature needs to make sure the bill does three things: define nightclub, bar or dance hall consistently across the statute so it makes clear which business owners must implement this rule; indicate what happens after proof of identification is furnished; and, most importantly, require proof of identification at the bar when alcohol is being purchased.

Governor Bryan also commended the 33rd Legislature for crafting Bill No. 33-0093, which establishes the St. Thomas Capital Investment Fund.

“I applaud the senators for acting together regardless of their respective districts,” the Governor wrote. “It is a significant step to repairing the divide that exists between the districts.”

Governor Bryan to Ease Restrictions For Territory’s Bars and Restaurants

May 21, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his COVID-19 briefing Thursday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said he is easing restrictions on bars and restaurants and will allow restaurants to cater to dine-in patrons and permit bars to reopen on Tuesday, May 26, under certain conditions.

Restaurants can offer dine-in service at 50 percent capacity or 50 customers, whichever is less. They also must place tables at least 6 feet apart and not accept parties any larger than six people, and bars also must space barstools 6 feet apart.

All servers and other employees of bars and restaurants must wear facial coverings, and the establishments must provide proper hygiene and sanitization stations for employees and patrons.

“We will be putting out more specific guidelines in the executive order this weekend, but generally our guidelines follow those of the CDC and the National Restaurant Association,” Governor Bryan said. “By opening prior to our relaxation of the leisure travel restrictions, we hope to give these establishments an opportunity to properly outfit their establishments and to recall their staff to prepare for the return of visitors to the territory.”

 

Governor Bryan Resubmits Amended Cannabis Use Act

May 20, 2020

 

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on Tuesday resubmitted to the 33rd Legislature an amended version of his proposed Virgin Islands Cannabis Use Act, which amends Title 19, Chapter 34 of the V.I. Code, also known as the Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Care Act.

“This Administration has conducted a series of listening discussions with multiple Senators and the general public to provide explanatory information and to receive input for further revisions to the proposed bill,” Governor Bryan wrote in his transmittal letter to Senate President Novelle Francis Jr.

The proposed legislation Governor Bryan submitted on Tuesday, May 19, 2020, incorporates the product of collaboration and input from those multiple Senators who came forward and comments received from the public in town hall meetings.

During his COVID-19 press briefing on Monday, May 18, Governor Bryan urged the 33rd Legislature to act expeditiously on his proposed legislation, as it is a key revenue funding source to shore up the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS), which reiterated what he said in his transmittal letter.

Under the Governor’s proposed cannabis legislation, 75 percent of all revenues from cannabis taxes and licensing fees will be directed toward the GERS.

“Consideration of this proposed bill is exigent given that the principal benefit of the revenues derived from this bill are directed to assisting the stoppage of the hemorrhaging of the Government Employees Retirement System,” Governor Bryan wrote in the letter. “I once again state that this bill will not solve the GERS financial status; rather, it is one of the tools and we must continue to work together to find other means to shore up the system.

“It is also important that we utilize the present time while we are putting our economy back together in readiness for the post-COVID pandemic environment, to put this revenue mechanism in place,” the Governor wrote.

One of Governor Bryan’s first actions upon being sworn into office in January 2019 was to sign into law Act No. 8167, the Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Care Act

VI DSPR Receives $1.4M to Restore Emile Griffith Park

May 20, 2020

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – The Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation (DSPR) was awarded $1,412,908 to renovate a staple of the St. Thomas community. The funds to complete the repairs to the Emile Griffith Ballpark were obligated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through its Public Assistance Program (PA) and are earmarked to restore all the park’s facilities.

The park, a namesake for professional boxer Emile Griffith, was significantly damaged during the 2017 hurricane season. It was partially refurbished in 2019 but has not functioned in its full capacity since the storms.

“For years, Emile Griffith Park has been the home to hundreds of sports enthusiasts, both participants and spectators. The field, which is primarily used for little league games, has housed numerous other sporting and athletic events,” Commissioner of the Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation, Mr. Calvert White. “It will be exciting to see the park not just restored, but improved, so local and international tournaments can return. We are thankful for this recent obligation and look forward to continuing to work with local and federal stakeholders to move the Department’s initiatives forward.”

Identified funds will repair damaged components to include the basketball court, toddler playing area, ball field, concession stand, batting cage, office building, parking lot, and bathrooms. Its bleachers, playground surfaces, lighting, scoreboard, PA system, security gates, press box, pitching machine, and fencing will all be replaced, in addition to other elements to restore and maintain the community park.

“The Emile Griffith Ballpark is a meeting place for children, athletes, and sports enthusiasts.” Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Office of Disaster Recovery Director. “Ensuring that safe spaces like these are rebuilt to withstand future weather events is critical for the well-being of this and future generations.”

Local Contractor to Complete Renovations to the George Simmons Senior Center

May 19, 2020

ST. JOHN, U.S. Virgin Islands – Work has begun to repair the George Simmons Senior Center on St. John. The facility, built in 1985, was damaged after severe wind, and wind-driven rain from Hurricane Maria lifted the corrugated metal roofing, causing damages to the electrical and mechanical systems as well as the interior of the building.

The Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA) awarded a contract to Custom Builders VI for $588,000 to completely renovate the building, including the roof, water heater, solar panel, air conditioning units, windows, doors, fencing, and other interior and exterior features.

Robert Graham, Executive Director of VIHA stated, “The Housing Authority is pleased to partner with the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Office of the Governor to begin the work to revitalize this important resource for our seniors.” Moreover, Graham said that “It is critically important to repair facilities to provide much-needed services to our elderly residents, particularly during our response to COVID-19.”

Funding for this project was obligated through the FEMA Public Assistance Program in November 2019.

“The Adrian Senior Center is one of the Office of Disaster Recovery’s Top Projects,” Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Office of Disaster Recovery (ODR) Director. “The impact its completion will make on the community and the services that will be reinstated is important to the seniors living on St. John.”

VIHA’s board and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved the award in January after the bid’s second advertisement.

DHS Commissioner, Kimberley Causey-Gomez, expressed “a sincere appreciation of the commitment made by the VIHA, Office of the Governor and ODR to get this much-needed capital project moving in St. John.” Causey-Gomez also stated, “Research shows that older adults who participate in senior center programs can learn to manage and delay the onset of chronic disease and experience measurable improvements in their overall well-being.”

Abigail Hendricks, the Project Manager of Social Recreation and Senior Citizen Affairs on St. John, said, “it is a home away from home for Seniors and is so missed by them. Seniors engage in recreation, games, and guest presentations on health education and other areas of interest. Since the storm, seniors have been moving around to multiple locations because of not having a home base.”

The center will also be used as a distribution center for the residents of St. John in the event of a disaster. Renovations are expected to be completed by November 2020.

FEMA Awards USVIEDA $362K to Renovate Fleming House

May 18, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the Public Assistance Program has approved $362,639 in funding for exterior and interior repairs to the Fleming House in Frederiksted, which houses the offices of the U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority (USVIEDA).

The two-story historic site constructed in 1887 has been home to the USVIEDA since 2003. The building sustained extensive damage after Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

“Economic development is most successful when collaborative partnerships and relationships occur within a community. The same also applies when historic sites need to be restored after wear and tear, or the impact of a natural disaster,” said Kamal I. Latham, Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority (USVIEDA). “It is indeed a privilege for our team to work within the walls of history as it facilitates economic development opportunities for the Territory’s future. We thank the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Virgin Islands Office of Disaster Recovery for their tremendous work on this project,” added CEO Latham.

“The Fleming House is not only a worksite for the USVIEDA office on St. Croix. It is a significant part of the Frederiksted community and its history,” Wayne L. Biggs, Jr., USVIEDA Assistant Chief Executive Officer/Chief Operating Officer. “As historic buildings are restored and house modern-day offices such as ours, a strong connection is developed between the past and present,” added ACEO/COO Biggs.

FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, Federal Coordinating Officer, William Vogel, local and FEMA representatives, toured the building in February. The Administrator saw firsthand the effects of disasters on historic properties and cultural resources.

The location will be renovated and restored to its pre-disaster condition utilizing comparable materials to maintain its historic façade in accordance with The Division for Archaeology and Historic Preservation. Wooden window trims, handrails, Jalousies, lattice screens, shutters, copper hanging lamps, and brick columns will be installed to refurbish the building, returning its notable vintage finish.

“Several historic buildings in the territory will be refurbished utilizing recovery funds from Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” said Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Office of Disaster Recovery Director. “Ensuring that this and other slated projects are restored maintaining their historical elements is not just a requirement but an obligation.”

The site will also be rebuilt to withstand future weather events. A request for proposal to solicit qualified contractors is scheduled to be released by the end of June. To be notified about this and other disaster recovery solicitations, visit http://www.usviodr.com/doing-business-with-odr/.

Bureau of Motor Vehicles to Resume All Services with Restrictions

May 18, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS— In accordance with Governor Albert Bryan Jr. phased reopening of the territory, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will be implementing phased reopening protocols from Monday, May 18, 2020. Director McIntosh and the staff of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles are implementing the following procedures to safeguard the community and the employees:

The BMV will resume all services beginning Monday, May 18, 2020 with restrictions. Customers who wish to renew vehicle registrations, obtain moving permits, permits to ship vehicles off-island, title transfers of new and used vehicles, and duplicate documents, must drop off the required documents to a designated drop box at any bureau office, in a sealed envelope. Customers are required to provide pertinent contact information, such as phone numbers and email addresses. The bureau will then schedule an appointment for each customer to pick up their documents and pay for the service. Applications and a list of the required documents are available on our website at bmv.vi.gov. Director McIntosh is still encouraging the community to take advantage of the bureau’s online vehicle registration process. During the period from March 18, 2020 to May 31, 2020, the bureau will waive the requirement for inspection for any customer who renews 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.

For driver’s license and disabled placards related services, customers are required to make an appointment. To make an appointment, please call (340) 713-4268 on St. Croix, (340) 774-4268 on St. Thomas, and (340) 776-6262 on St. John. All road tests and written test for the learner’s permit are cancelled until further notice.

Governor Bryan Says $10 Million in Stimulus Funds Issued This Week by V.I. Finance Department

May 14, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his COVID-19 briefing Thursday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said that stimulus checks began going out from the Virgin Islands Finance Department on Monday and by the end of the week, 6,271 checks totaling almost $10 million will have been issued.

“Everyone who is entitled to a COVID stimulus check will receive a COVID stimulus check,” Governor Bryan said. “I would also like to call your attention to the fact that no state in the union must go through this process. Only the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the territories must issue checks. The federal government issues all the checks without the states’ involvement.”

The Governor also said an assistance center will be opened to assist individuals in filling out a 1040 tax form for 2018 in order to help them receive a stimulus check quicker.

It only requires basic information, but we realize printing resources and the fear of coming into offices may be a hindrance to people getting through this process,” Governor Bryan said. “Once again, there is plenty of money and everyone who is entitled will get a check.”

Stimulus Checks began going out on Monday, May 11. As of May 14, 2,595 checks totaling $3.9 million have been sent out. On May 15, an additional 3,676 checks totaling about $6 million will be sent out. The Lieutenant Governor’s Office is asking stimulus check recipients to use a banking app or an ATM, if possible, to deposit checks.

YES  Program credits began appearing on V.I. Water and Power Authority bills on May 7. To date, 6,046 residential customers received a $250 credit and 1,654 commercial ratepayers have received a $500 credit. All ratepayers will have received their YES Program credit by the end of May.

FEMA Obligates Funding to Begin Design of New Hospitals Across the Territory

May 13, 2020

U.S. Virgin Islands – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the Public Assistance Program has approved $11,979,526 to procure architecture and engineering (A&E) services for the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center (JFL) on St. Croix, Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute (CKCI) on St. Thomas and the Myrah Keating Smith Health Center (MKHC) on St. John.

The Hospital Redevelopment Team comprised of the project management teams from the JFL and Roy Lester Schneider (RLS) hospitals and led Darryl Smalls, Vice President of Facilities Management for Schneider Regional Medical Center (SRMC) released a proposal to solicit the architecture and engineering services for JFL and SRMC on May 8.

Water intrusion and wind damages caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 resulted in multiple damaged components severely impacting the operating capacity at each of the territory’s hospitals.

The Myrah Keating Smith Health Center, the only medical facility on the island of St. John, was rendered inoperable after it sustained storm damages as well. A temporary structure constructed in 2018 now sits adjacent to the abandoned building and is used to provide services to the islands’ residents.

The Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute also remains shuttered after the storms in 2017, making rebuilding critical as there is no other location providing oncology services in the territory.

“This is truly a crucial time for the healthcare industry in our Territory following the recent Hurricanes, Irma and Maria, and now the devastating impacts we are now experiencing with the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Darryl Smalls, Vice President of Facilities Management for SRMC. “These disasters have demonstrated the need to rebuild our medical facilities collaboratively to ensure the continuity of quality healthcare to the residents and visitors to the Virgin Islands.”

Work is being finalized on the temporary facility at the Juan Luis Hospital on St. Croix, and construction should be complete by August 2020. The JFL Project Team is simultaneously working on completing the temporary work while looking towards a more permanent facility.

According to Interim CEO of JFL, Dyma B. Williams, RN, BSN, M.J., CPHRM, “the publishing of the RFP is another step in the right direction for the future of JFL. We are eager to begin the construction of the community’s new hospital and the creation of positive economic development on the island of St. Croix. We look forward to hearing from the community during this design process of the new JFL, the community’s hospital.”

The selection of a firm to complete the design is the first step to begin rebuilding health care facilities and the system of care in the territory.

 

Taiwan TECO Donates of 20,000 Medical Masks In Support of Healthcare Workers for National Hospital Week

May 13, 2020.

The Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center thanks the Government of Taiwan, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Miami (“TECO”) for their donation of 20,000 medical masks during National Hospital Week.

 “The JFL Team is thankful to TECO for this generous donation of 20,000 masks during National Hospital Week that will ensure that we are able to protect frontline healthcare workers and patients. We are forever grateful for this show of goodwill and hope for the U.S. Virgin Islands during this pandemic. I also would like to take this time to thank U.S. Virgin Islands Special Economic Envoy to Taiwan, Anthony Weeks, for his assistance in helping to arrange and coordinate the delivery of the donated medical masks to the hospital,” Interim Chief Executive Officer Dyma Williams said.

TECO, Director General David Chien said in a statement indicated:

“COVID-19 is a global pandemic... a common threat to mankind around the world. This virus knows no borders; the international community must stand together to confront this challenge. Taiwan cherishes the long-lasting relationship established with the USVI and wishes to express its support through the donation of the 20,000 medical masks. The donation not only fulfills the promise that ‘Taiwan can help,’ but that Taiwan is helping."

 Mr. Weeks also said, “Taiwan has transformed itself from an importer to the world’s second-largest producer of medical masks. Countries around the globe must unite, show solidarity, provide mutual assistance, and work together to combat the Novel Coronavirus. As a Virgin Islander, it is my privilege to work with the JFL Team to protect frontline healthcare workers.”

 

DPW Obligated $1.1M to Resolve Flooding in Gallows Bay

May 12, 2020.

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) obligated $1,164,312 to the Virgin Islands Department of Public Works (DPW) to fund the first phase of the Gallows Bay Culvert Mitigation Project.

Gallows Bay was identified in the Territory’s Hazard Mitigation Plan as an area that required a comprehensive solution to resolve repetitive flooding. The project will address flooding at the intersection of Mount Welcome Road, East End Road, and the Christiansted Bypass, ending just after the junction of Mount Welcome Road and Garden Street. This area is more commonly recognized by the concrete paving leading into Gallows Bay.

“This project aligns with our planned improvements for the Gallows Bay area,” said Commissioner Nelson Petty Jr. “We have a Federal Highway Administration funded project, which focuses on the reconstruction of the roadway, scheduled to begin this summer. Once constructed, residents and businesses in this area will experience relief due to the implementation of surface drainage treatments along the roadway.”

Commissioner Petty further explained the additional FEMA dollars recently obligated will allow DPW to complete the design of a box culvert drainage system, which is intended to address the longstanding runoff issues in this low-lying area. Upon award, it will take about 12 months to have the design completed and approved, so that Phase II funds can be awarded for construction.

The preliminary scope of work includes the construction of a 900-foot concrete box culvert underneath Mt. Welcome Road at its intersection with East End Road to the outfall of the concrete channel that currently directs runoff into Gallows Bay. The work will also include the relocation of water and sewer lines and the reconstruction of the roadway. The final scope of work will be determined after phase one is complete.

“By capturing the runoff that flows onto Mt. Welcome Road from Spring Gut, the Gallows Bay Culvert Mitigation Project will eliminate flooding, addressing the long-standing drainage problem affecting businesses and residents in the area” Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien, Office of Disaster Recovery Director. “This project will also prevent future road pavement damage as a result of flooding and minimize sewage treatment costs.” The amount obligated to complete the architecture and engineering for Phase I is $1,164,312.

The estimated cost for Phase II, construction is $9,702,603 for a total project cost of $10,866,915.

FEMA Approves Arthur A. Richards Junior High School Replacement

May 11, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the Public Assistance Program officially approved the replacement of the Arthur A. Richards Junior High School due to the extent of damages caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. This approval allows the Virgin Islands Department of Education to begin negotiating costs for the construction of a new school.

The New Schools Construction Advisory Board, comprised of Virgin Islands Department of Education professionals and other V.I. residents, began working on a Facilities Master Plan in January 2020. The board led by Dr. Dionne Wells-Hedrington, Chief Operating Officer for the VI Department of Education is moving forward on plans to repair and reconstruct the Territory’s schools. VIDE has selected the Evelyn Williams School site as the location for the construction of the first school in the Facility Master Plan.

Requests for Proposals were issued for the demolition of both the Arthur A. Richards and the Evelyn Williams campuses in April. Demolition work is scheduled to begin over the summer and be completed by the end of the year.

The Arthur Richards replacement creates the first of several new PreK-8 projects being developed by the VIDE. Conceived as a campus of five buildings, the Arthur Richards PreK-8 School incorporates guiding principles crafted by a broad swath of stakeholders in 2018.

Dr. Dione Wells-Hedrington, VIDE Chief Operating Officer, said, “the new design will address criteria integrally linked to successful student and teacher engagement as well as, 24/7 security, sustainable and resilient building systems, thermal, visual and acoustical comfort, natural light, technology-enhanced learning and furniture and finishes that celebrate the vernacular of the Virgin Islands.”

When construction funding is finalized, the concept diagram developed by DLR Group during the Master Planning process will serve as a starting point for the design of Arthur Richards.

“AARJHS is the first official determination for replacement,” Director of the Office of Disaster Recovery Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien. “Five additional sites are currently under consideration for replacement by FEMA to include the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School, Charlotte Amalie High School, Julius Sprauve Elementary School, and the Curriculum Center on St. Thomas. We have submitted 19 more schools for consideration.”

The federally mandated Facilities Master Plan will establish the use of building standards and scope of work for all Department of Education facilities to be constructed. The plan is scheduled to be completed on June 30, 2020. The VIDE will host a virtual public hearing on June 3, 2020, from 6-8 p.m.

Watch: Governor Bryan Updates the Territory

Governor Bryan Says Territory Will Receive Limited Supply of Remdesivir for COVID-19 Patients

May 11, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his COVID-19 briefing Monday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said that the Territory will be getting a case of the COVID-19 drug Remdesivir this week, and he thanked residents for abiding by the face covering requirements and other guidelines set forth by his Administration and the V.I. Department of Health.

“The National Institute of Health and Dr. Anthony Fauci have indicated marked progress of this medication improving the health outcomes of COVID-positive patients,” Governor Bryan said. “This is a limited supply with more to come once production is increased.”

The Governor also asked employers to allow employees, who now are wearing masks during their entire shift, to take hourly breaks to go outside and get fresh air.

“None of us were designed to work with restricted airflow that is created by the masks, and it will take some time for our bodies to adjust,” Governor Bryan said.

“Rotate the shifts a little more so that these employees can maintain their safety and get sufficient breaks and some fresh air as much as possible.”

Stimulus checks are being processed and will be distributed this week. Payments will be made to residents who filed their 2018 taxes in the Virgin islands and will be received via check. The Lieutenant Governor’s Office is asking stimulus check recipients to use a banking app or an ATM, if possible, to deposit checks.

VIPD Central Records Bureau Offices to Resume Service to Public

May 9, 2020

US VIRGIN ISLANDS – Following Governor Albert Bryan, Jr.’s Stay Safer at Home order easing restrictions on the closure of offices, Police Commissioner Trevor A. Velinor is advising that effective Monday, May 11, the Central Records Bureau offices on all three islands will resume servicing the public from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. All persons entering VIPD buildings will be required to wear a face covering. In the St. Thomas / St. John District, only one person will be allowed service at a time. In the St. Croix District, two people will be allowed service at a time.

VIPD employees will continue to observe safety protocols to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and will encourage customers to practice social distancing and other requirements.

U.S. Labor Department Awards USVI $1.5 Million Dislocated Worker Grant

May 8, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced that the U.S. Department of Labor has awarded the Virgin Islands Department of Labor a $1.5 million National Dislocated Worker Grant to provide disaster-relief employment, along with employment training and service.

The grant is funded under the federal CARES Act, which provided $345 million for Dislocated Worker Grants to help address workforce-related impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we look thoughtfully to reopen our economy, a central challenge will be to fight back the virus and assist unemployed Americans in finding jobs and getting back to work,” Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training John P. Pallasch said.

“Dislocated Worker Grant funding places eligible individuals into roles where they can help their communities address effects of the virus,” he said.

The V.I. Department of Labor will receive an executed grant agreement, as well as a Notice of Award indicating the effective date and any special conditions for the use of the federal funds. The grant award documents also will specify the conditions under which the Territory may request additional funding.

Watch: Gov Bryan's Latest Updates

Governor Bryan Eases Some Restrictions During ‘Safer at Home” Phase on Path to New Normal

May 7, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his covid-19 briefing Thursday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. eased some restrictions during the “Safer at Home” phase on the path to a New Normal, saying that hotels can take reservations for residents and business travel and that dive shops, day sails and excursions can operate under the same conditions as other nonessential businesses already allowed to reopen.

“It is our hope that we can add some relief and activity in these most stressful times,” the Governor said. “So, if you have been displaced out of your home for some reason or you just want to spend the weekend away from your home, you can do that.”

Proprietors should exercise judgement in allowing people who can’t wear a mask because of respiratory issues into their establishment. At the very least, a customer presenting an inhaler as proof of their condition should be enough to get them admitted into the store. Individuals who can’t wear a mask should spend as little time as possible inside a business and get a doctor’s note as a means of proving they suffer from respiratory ailments.

Free “No Mask, No Service” signs for businesses are available at Property and Procurement and DLCA offices in both districts. Business owners should call all 340-727-7226 on St. Croix or 340-771-7226 in the St. Thomas-St. John District. Masks that cover the entire head, such as ski masks or masks that cover more than the bridge of your nose, are prohibited.

Stimulus checks will begin rolling out next week. Payments will be made to residents who filed their 2018 taxes in the Virgin islands and will be received via check. The Lieutenant Governor’s Office is asking stimulus check recipients to use a banking app or an ATM, if possible, to deposit checks.

“These masks not only pose a serious threat to store owners, as people look similar to armed robbers, but they propose a serious threat to the wearer, as you may be mistakenly identified as a perpetrator and end up getting assaulted or shot,” Governor Bryan said. “Please wear your masks responsibly.”

Google is helping the USVI by optimizing local information and websites on their search engine for residents to easily find accurate local information.

 

 

 

Governor Bryan Issues Proclamation Designating May 7 as ‘National Day of Prayer’

May 6, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has issued a proclamation designating Thursday, May 7, 2020, as a “National Day of Prayer,” with the theme of “Pray God’s Glory,” which is based on Habakkuk 2:14: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

In his proclamation, Governor Bryan said the National Day of Prayer is a time to specifically thank God for those who defend our freedoms and ask for peace throughout the state, nation and world.

“”Leaders and all citizens of our nation are afforded the privilege of prayer, affirming our spiritual heritage and the principles upon which our nation was founded,” Governor Bryan said. “Recognizing the love and power of God, we unite with fellow citizens to exercise the freedom we have to gather in prayer with thankfulness while seeking guidance, provision, protection, and purpose for the benefit of every individual and our state as a whole.”

To commemorate the National Day of Prayer, the Government Access Channel on Thursday will rebroadcast the Hour of Prayer at Government House that was hosted by Governor Bryan and First Lady Yolanda Bryan, as well as a compilation of prayers from Virgin Islands clergy from the “U.S. Virgin Islands Day of Prayer, Fasting and Reflection” on March 30.

The Hour of Prayer at Government House will be broadcast at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 7, and the compilation of prayers will be broadcast at 3 p.m. on Thursday. Additionally, the Government Access Channel will broadcast a video of Governor Bryan reading the National Day of Prayer proclamation at various times throughout the day on Thursday.

Governor Bryans Anticipates Residents will Begin to Receive Stimulus Checks by Next Week

May 4, 2020

In Governor Bryan's latest press briefing on Monday, he outlined the “Safer-at-Home” phase of the territory’s COVID-19 path to a new normal.  

The governor’s Safer-at-Home order, which went into effect early Monday, May 4 allows for some non-essential businesses to resume operations as long as they adhere to the safety guideline issued by the CDC and our local Department of Health.

All residents who wish to patronize any business must wear a face mask. The only exceptions are children younger than 2 or residents with acute respiratory issues.

• Ski masks are prohibited indoors and outdoors as a means of addressing the need for a mask in commercial establishments.

• Taxis, safaris, and cars for hire are considered commercial establishments, and all occupants must have masks.

• Free “No Mask, No Service” signs for businesses will be available from the Department of Property and Procurement offices and Department of Consumer Affairs offices in both districts.

• “Safer at Home” rules have been adjusted to allow religious leaders to give their sermons without masks as long as they stay at least 10 feet away from the congregation.

• The public is asked to report businesses in violation of the “No Mask, No Service” policy by calling DLCA at 340-713-3522 on St. Croix and 340-714-3522 on St. Thomas.

Non-essential businesses allowed to reopen, pending their ability to follow social distancing and safety guidelines as proscribed by the CDC and the Virgin Islands Department of Health, include:

• Barbers • Hair salons • Massage therapists • Gymnasiums • Private health care facilities for elective medical visit

Pandemic EBT cards

• Funds from the federal CARES Act have been made available to children who participate in the school lunch program for extra food benefits, called Pandemic EBT, or P-EBT, and will be about $300 per child. • Families will receive a P-EBT card for each eligible child to be used on food and groceries, and the program is administered through the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services. • All children attending public schools are eligible to receive P-EBT cards.

Stimulus checks

• On Monday, the IRS has approved the Territory’s Economic Impact Payment Plan, which clears the way for funds to be transferred to the Territory’s treasury. • The first round of checks are expected to be issued beginning next week. • The Territory still is awaiting approval from the Social Security Administration regarding the issuance directly to Social Security recipients. All Social Security recipients are being urged to file a 1040 form and more information is available from the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue at 340-773-1040.

Unemployment benefits

Applications continue to be processed, and, to date, the Labor Department has processed 2,430 checks totaling $1.7 million.

Governor Albert Bryan Implementing a “Safer At Home” Order to Become Effective on Monday, May 4.

April 29, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced Wednesday he is implementing a “Safer At Home” order that will become effective on Monday, May 4.

The Governor also said he is issuing an executive order that will detail the phased reopening of non-essential businesses and the guidelines to which they will be subject.

*The current stay-at-home order has been extended to 6 a.m. Monday, May 4

*The intention of the “Safer At Home” order is to begin the phased-reopening of the local economy in preparation for returning access to the outside world.

The transition will be managed according to a five-tiered system: Red – Total quarantine Orange – Current Stay-At-Home order (in effect until 6 a.m. Monday, May 4) Yellow – Safer At Home order (effective May 4) Blue – Open Doors (hotel reservations and leisure guest bookings permitted; restaurants open for seating – anticipated June 1) Green – New Normal

Safer at Home (Effective May 4, 2020):

All patrons are required to wear a face mask when entering a business.

All gatherings of people require face masks (except children 2 and younger or those with acute respiratory ailments).

Recreation facilities, such as gyms, tennis courts and golf courses may reopen as long as they maintain social distancing

All contact sports, such as basketball, volleyball, and football are prohibited Sports equipment must be properly sanitized and not shared Bowling alleys and movie theaters may reopen if they practice social distancing, but they may not sell food and drink or host parties

Private offices may reopen, but all employees not critical to in-person services should be encouraged to work from home

Government operations remain in their current hold pattern and all conditions for public interaction remain in place until further notice. Private health care facilities may resume procedures if they follow required safety protocols

Personal services, such as barbers, massage therapists, and hair salons, may operate by appointment only and must employ strict hygiene guidelines and frequent sanitization procedures for all contact services and tools, including hand sanitizer for patrons and face masks for the entire time as possible.

For personal services businesses, no more than 5 customers will be allowed to wait at any given time and no more than 10 people, including employees, allowed in the establishment at a time.

Retail stores may not allow more than 10 individuals into the establishment at any time. The only exemptions are grocery stores and the previously exempted big box stores.

Visitation to nursing homes is still is prohibited and child care facilities still are closed All schools – public, private and parochial – remain closed.

Restaurants continue to be restricted to take-out, delivery or drive-thru service. Bars remain closed.

Churches may conduct services providing they don’t exceed a capacity of 50 individuals and all, including the pastor, wear face masks.

The social distancing requirement of at least 6 feet remains in place for general purposes between customers when not directly conducting service.

Employers should encourage frequent breaks to wash hands and employees showing any signs of illness should remain at home. Employees should wear face masks when interacting with customers.

Moving from the yellow Safer At Home tier to the blue Open Doors tier is anticipated to be June 1 and is the tentative date to reopen the USVI to travelers.

Vulnerable individuals should stay at home to the greatest extent possible, and for purposes of this Executive Order are characterized as persons 65 or older; persons with chronic lung disease or severe asthma; persons with serious heart conditions; persons who are immunocompromised; and pregnant women.

 

Governor Bryan Details YES Stimulus Program To Help Residents Pay Their WAPA Bills

April 27, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. formally announced the “Your Energy Stimulus” (YES) program to help residents pay their V.I. Water and Power Authority bills while the Territory remains under a state of emergency and the community is under a stay-at-home order because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Credits in the amounts of $250 for residential accounts and $500 for business accounts will be applied to the Mat billing cycle for active WAPA accounts. The credit will appear on WAPA bills as a line item that reads “YES Cares Act Credit.”

The credit cannot be converted to cash, and if the credit is not fully used in the May power bill, the remaining amount will be applied to the following month’s bill.

“While this pandemic is impacting our economy, we recognize that our residents and small businesses also are struggling, and we wanted to be able to provide some kind of direct financial assistance to help the community as everyone struggles through these difficult times,” Governor Bryan said.

The YES program is backed by federal funds from the CARES Act stimulus that Congress approved earlier in April.

For more information, or if you have questions, about the YES stimulus program call WAPA’s Customer Service representatives at 340-774-3552 in the St. Thomas-St. John District or 340-773-2250 in the St. Croix District and choose option 5.

Reconstruction to VING’s armory remains on schedule despite COVID-19

April 23, 2020

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands – Even as the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases identified in the United States and around the world continues to increase, the reconstruction on the Leonard B. Francis Readiness Center in St. Thomas is on target to meet its deadline, November 2020.

After extensive damage sustained by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created projects valued at $22 million to support the restoration of facilities for the Virgin Islands National Guard VING.

“The team remains highly encouraged and engaged with finishing this project that started in January 2019,” said Maj. Lionel Eddy, project officer. “With only a few months near the deadline, we have made immense strides in realigning the building structure and are focused on configuring the bathrooms, the Distance Learning Center, and the studio for the 73rd Army Band.”

Numerous developments gearing towards being ready to stand in any fight were made to the facility. Cement board with Edge Guard was used to decrease mold contamination and increase personnel efficiency. Moreover, a Tactical Operations Center (TOC) was incorporated into the facility to make the 786th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion functional as an Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

Safety is the number one priority. Soldiers remain in the frontlines for mission support tasks mandated by the stay at home order which started in March. The on-going construction incorporates a system of daily status checks to include the wearing of the proper personal equipment to deter the spread of COVID-19.

Governor Bryan Updates Residents on COVID-19

April 23, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During a press conference Wednesday to update residents on COVID-19, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said his Administration received $75 million from the federal CARES Act, which will allow for the disbursement of stimulus checks and provide a subsidy for V.I. Water and Power Authority ratepayers.

Governor Bryan also said he toured the Virgin Islands National Guard’s Regional Training Institute in Estate Bethlehem on St. Croix, which is being adapted to serve as a quarantine facility for COVID-19 patients, and he said that he is instituting a “rent freeze” effective immediately.

“I want to caution the public that this pandemic is going to be with us for a while longer,” the Governor said. “As we reopen the economy, and sooner or later, we’re going to have to reopen the economy, it’s not unreasonable that we will see surges that come and go as infections increase and decrease over time.

“The main concern is not to avoid the virus, because we know that’s impossible, you cannot avoid this virus, but to be prepared to isolate any outbreaks and treat the affected patients with the best in medical care,” he said.

To date, 688 individuals have been tested for COVID-19 in the Territory, with 583 of those testing negative, 54 testing positive and 51 tests still pending. Of those who tested positive, 48 have recovered, while three people have died, and the Virgin Islands Health Department currently is tracking three active cases of the virus.

Governor Bryan also talked about the Territory’s readiness for the drawn-out and continued path the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to take in the coming months.

“There is the second wave that is discussed on a national level, and our strategy is to prepare for the pandemic management as a new way of life,” the Governor said. “We are preparing for what comes next.”

The Governor said Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas has completed the first phase of its COVID wing and now can accommodate an additional 20 acute care beds specifically designated for patients who are infected with the virus.

Governor Bryan also said that additional ventilators are on order and the Territory continues to build its stockpile of Personal Protective Equipment, including overalls, face-shields, 60,000 regular masks and 50,000 N-95 masks.

“This is one of the major pieces of us reopening our economy, to have more ventilators available in case of a surge, Governor Bryan said. “We are definitely better prepared now than we were 60 days ago.”

Governor Bryan also said that a portion of the $75 million federal assistance will go toward providing the $1,200 stimulus checks for residents and the WAPA subsidies of $250 for individuals an $500 for businesses, which is known as the YES Program for Your Energy Stimulus.

The federal funds also will go toward the Territory’s COVID Safe Transit Subsidy for the St. Thomas-St. John passenger ferries and also will be used to provide safe transport for the disabled and senior citizens.

“One of the things we did early on was trying to get the ferries to limit the number of people traveling to and from St. John,” Governor Bryan said. “That, of course, had an economic result, so we’re setting aside some funds now to give to both passenger ferry companies that take residents to and from St. Thomas and St. John.”

Regarding the rent freeze, which will remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency, landlords of tenanted apartments may not increase the rent, even if the lease has expired.

“I’m getting a lot of questions from people who are talking about their rent and getting eviction notices. I want to be clear, while we have an eviction freeze, the eviction process continues,” Governor Bryan said. “If you’re not paying your rent, your landlord can move for eviction and do everything necessary for eviction. They just can’t put you out of the apartment until the end of the state of emergency. So, we’re urging you today to do your best to pay your rent or any rent payment programs that you may be a part of.”

Governor Bryan said the state of emergency currently extends until May 12, but he is preparing legislation to send to the Senate to get authorization to extend the state of emergency to June 12.

 

National Guard Estate Bethlehem Compound Converts to an Alternate Care Facility to House COVID-19 Patients

April 22, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands – The Virgin Islands National Guard is working with the Government of the Virgin Islands and Federal partners to convert the 210th Regional Training Institute at the Estate Bethlehem Compound to an Alternate Care Facility (ACF) to house COVID-19 patients.

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., Brig. Gen. (VI) Kodjo Knox-Limbacker, the Adjutant General of the Virgin Islands National Guard, and Col. Daniel Hibner, US Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District Commander, held a press conference at the 210th RTI dining facility, April 21, 2020.

The press conference was to discuss efforts to convert a portion of the institute into an Alternate Care Facility to treat acute COVID-19 patients.

“We have a team of professionals from the Corps of Engineers dedicated to converting these barracks into a treatment facility as quickly as possible in order to meet needs of the peak demand,” said Hibner.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began their assessments to the RTI facility in March 2020, as part of a national effort to evaluate sites to serve as ACF during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brig. Gen. Knox-Limbacker signed the supplemental lease agreement for the 210th RTI on April 17 that calls for the build-out to be completed by May 5. Once converted, the ACF will have a 46-bed capacity, designated for COVID-19 patients only.

“The safety of our servicemen and women, DoD employees, contract workers, retirees, and families are our utmost priority and will not interfere with the Department of Health’s COVID-19 operations,” said Knox-Limbacker. “This is now the third requirement we are going to support. The conversion of the RTI facility was the most feasible choice in becoming an alternate care facility to support the Department of Health in its efforts with the COVID-19.”

As part of an approved FEMA mission assignment, Guardsmen have been on orders since April 2, supporting the Department of Health and local agencies with screening incoming passengers at the airports and conducting public safety announcements at local beaches.

Also, on St. Thomas, constructions are underway to add 50 beds to the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital with negatively pressured rooms. The ACF construction build-out is a joint responsibility of the local and federal governments, with the federal government providing 75 percent of the necessary funding.

“We are very optimistic about this project,” said Justa Encarnacion, Commissioner for the VI Department of Health. “Today’s tour allowed us to ensure the community’s health care needs will be met. This facility will serve as an extra measure to increase capacity in our COVID-19 response efforts.”

 

Governor Bryan Updates Residents on COVID-19

April 20, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During the Monday press briefing at Government House in Christiansted, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. informed the community of a third fatality in the Territory from COVID-19 and urged residents not to let their guard down even though the public beaches have reopened.

The Territory’s third death from COVID-19 was a 77-year-old man from St. Croix with an underlying history of health issues and who had recently traveled from Florida.

To date, 625 individuals have been tested for the coronavirus, with 554 testing negative. Of the 53 people who tested positive, 48 of them have recovered and the Virgin Islands Department of Health currently is tracking two cases and 18 test results still are pending.

Governor Bryan announced that all the Territory’s public beaches have reopened, as have the beaches under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, with the exception Cramer’s Park on St. Croix’s East End, which had been vandalized and is expected to reopen Wednesday, April 22.

“We are allowing beach restaurants to reopen, but we are restricting the sale of alcohol,” Governor Bryan said. “I want to remind the public that the requirements for social distancing and avoiding mass gatherings are still in effect and will be fully enforced. That means absolutely no congregations of more than 10 individuals.”

The Governor said governors on the mainland have tried to reopen their beaches only to see residents stop adhering to social and physical distancing regulations.

“If we run into similar issues with compliance here locally, I will have no choice but to close the beaches once again,” Governor Bryan cautioned. “I want to be absolutely clear, no picnics, no parties, no DJs, no get-togethers, no camping, no kick-backs, no bonfires.”

Governor Bryan also addressed the status of the federal stimulus checks and additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, and he said he has been assured by Delegate Stacey Plaskett and Congressional leaders that more federal funding for the pay check program is imminent.

The Governor also said residents who have not filed their income taxes for 2018 can obtain a federal stimulus check by filing a provisional tax return and indicate zero tax return and drop off the form at Internal Revenue Bureau office in their district. The governor said he anticipates people who use this process will get their stimulus checks by mid-May.

Governor Bryan also thanked all the nonprofits, businesses and private individuals who have stepped up to fill the gaps in the community brought on by the pandemic. He specifically highlighted the work of My Brothers Workshop, which has distributed more than 6,500 meals throughout the Territory and providing assistance to seniors and disabled residents.

The Governor concluded Monday’s briefing by noting that next week will mark the end of the first phase of the 30-day stay-at-home order and that this week will be a test to determine the Territory’s next steps in dealing with COVID-19.

“We are by no means out of the woods yet. It is clear from the experience of our brothers and sisters in the BVI that you can’t hide out forever from this virus. It will sit in wait for you,” Governor Bryan said. “I am asking for your help in doing the right thing and encouraging your neighbor to do the right thing. Stay at home when you are sick, practice social distancing, wash your hands and abide by the regulations that we have set forth for your safety and for the safety of our entire Territory.”

Juan F Luis Hospital on St. Croix Will Not Allow Visitors Due to Pandemic

April 20, 2020

As a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of all patients, staff and the community, Juan F Luis Hospital has announced that it has suspended most visitations at the facility.

There are exceptions made for birthing mothers, NICU patients and parents of pediatric patients.

For the safety of the community and JFL staff, clients who have billing concerns may call 340-778-6311 and ask for billing; for those clients who are requesting Medical Records should ask for extension 2883 or e-mail eherbert@jflusvi.org. The facility is asking for clients to call or e-mail prior to coming into JFL because many requests may be handled over the phone or by e-mail. In case the concern cannot be handled over the phone or e-mail, with pre-notification, then the facility will be able to ensure that your in-person visit is efficient.

Sen. Kenneth L. Gittens Repeats call for Abattoirs to be Opened

April 17, 2020.

ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The coronavirus pandemic has provided the U.S. Virgin Islands with the “ultimate opportunity” to diversify its economy through the expansion of the local agriculture industry, Senator Kenneth L. Gittens said this week.

“It is critical to re-establish some level of food security by increasing the amount of food produced here in the Virgin Islands,” Senator Gittens said. “We also need to look to new ways of moving our economy forward. COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated the dangers of relying so heavily on tourism as that sector of the global economy is likely to take some time to recover.”

Senator Gittens has again called on the V.I. Department of Agriculture to reopen local abattoirs, especially in light of recent news about possible meat shortages as a result of the closure of processing facilities throughout the United States. The St. Croix Senator reiterated his requests and concerns on Tuesday in a letter to Agriculture Commissioner Positive Nelson.

“When we spoke a few weeks ago about my concerns in regard to local food security, particularly the need to reopen our abattoirs, you expressed that this was something your department was working on,” Senator Gittens wrote. “However, it is my understanding that our butchering facilities on St. Croix and St. Thomas remain closed. Considering the current State of Emergency, I write today to ask what is responsible for the delays and what, if anything, the 33rd Legislature can do to assist in your efforts to immediately reopen these facilities…Reopening the abattoirs now will allow for safe and sanitary butchering of local livestock, which has become increasingly important given our current circumstances.”

Senator Gittens has also called on the Department of Agriculture to immediately organize a giveaway of any seeds and seedlings in its possession.

“These materials should be distributed to our farmers and home gardeners,” he said. “Encouraging planting of more fruits and vegetables increases our food security and would provide a constructive ‘stay at home’ project for many in our community. These expenditures are even reimbursable under the Emergency Declaration. Let us work together to seize this moment to assure that our population enjoys continued access to fresh and healthy foods, while at the same time taking serious steps to diversify our economy.”

Senator Gittens said he stands ready to assist the Department of Agriculture in its efforts and that he has shared his ideas and concerns with both his Senate colleagues and Governor Albert A. Bryan.

“When it comes to local agriculture, this current crisis represents a real opportunity for us to move forward in terms of both feeding ourselves and developing specialty crops for export,” Senator Gittens concluded.

 

Bureau of Motor Vehicles to remain Closed until May 4, 2020

April 3,2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS— Director Barbara Jackson-McIntosh would like to inform the motoring public that due to the extension of the State of Emergency and the stay-at-home order by Governor Albert Bryan Jr, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will remain closed until May 4, 2020.

As Governor Bryan announced, driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations will be extended for 60 days during this State of Emergency. However, the community can take advantage of the bureau’s online vehicle registration process. During this period, 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.

 

Government Agencies Announce Changes To Normal Operations in Response to COVID-19

April 2, 2020

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — In an effort to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and in adherence to guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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 Tuesday, March 23, 2020, departments and agencies modifying the operations include:

Bureau of Corrections

The Bureau of Corrections has suspended in-person visitations at all correctional facilities and all volunteer programs, work details, and furloughs until further notice. For more information, visit boc.vi.gov.

Bureau of Internal Revenue

The income tax filing deadline for 2019 tax returns has been extended to July 15, and the Taxpayer Assistance Program has been suspended until further notice. All face-to-face appointments have been canceled until mid-April. Taxpayers who need to clear imported goods through excise tax offices are asked to use the online system at https://excise.bir.vi.gov. All tax returns that need to be filed should be done by mail, with a certified receipt, if possible. Include an extra copy of the return stamped, self-addressed envelope so the Bureau can return a stamped copy. The St. John office is closed until further notice. St. Croix and St. Thomas office hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, and cashiering services will be available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily until further notice.

For more information, call 340-773-1040 on St. Croix and 340-774-1040 on St. Thomas. Use the following extensions and email address for specific needs:

*Audit Division – St. Croix extension is 4233 and St. Thomas extension is 2271, or send an email to pcranston@irb.gov.vi

*Delinquent Accounts and Returns – St. Croix extension is 4254 and St. Thomas extension is 2232, or send an email to secarr@irb.gov.vi

*Processing – St. Croix number is 340-712-2513 and St. Thomas extension is 2223, or send an email to rdavis@irb.gov.vi

*Excise Division – St. Croix number is 340-778-1021 and St. Thomas extension is 3201, or send an email to ghodge@irb.gov.vi

*Director’s Office – St. Croix extension is 4225 and St. Thomas extension is 4225, or send an email to cwilliams@irb.gov.vi The Bureau of Internal Revenue website is bir.vi.gov.

Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles has limited services, and no more than six persons at a time will be allowed in the Vehicle registration renewal offices. BMV is encouraging the community to take advantage of its online vehicle registration process at bmv.vi.gov. The Bureau will waive the inspection requirement for any customer who registers their vehicle online until May 31, 2020. All road tests and written tests for the learner’s permit are canceled until further notice, and Governor Bryan has ordered a 60-day extension on all driver’s license and vehicle registration renewals.

For more information, call 340-713-4268 on St. Croix; 340-774-4268 on St. Thomas; 340-776-6262 on St. John; or visit bmv.vi.gov.

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.

Department of Finance

The Department of Finance is conducting all business electronically whenever possible. All public and private entities applying for Government Insurance Fund Worker’s Compensation Insurance should use the forms located here, and email them to governmentinsurance@dof.vi.gov. For W2 and 1099 forms, GVI employees should use the Employee Self Service (ESS) by logging on to usvi.munisselfservice.com. For ESS password resets, contactdophelpdesk@dop.vi.gov or call 340-714-5049. Vendor check inquiries can be directed to terry.bridges@dof.vi.gov or 340-774-4750 ext. 2192. Payroll check inquiries can be directed to grace.fahie@dof.vi.gov or 340-774-4750 ext. 2252. For more information, visit dof.vi.gov.

Department of Human Services

The VI Department of Human Services Head Start Program has closed classrooms territory-wide until at least April 8. VIDHS staff are to report to work as normally scheduled. For more information, visit dhs.gov.vi.

The VI Department of Human Services Head Start Program has closed classrooms territory-wide until at least April 8. VIDHS staff are to report to work as normally scheduled. For more information, visit dhs.gov.vi.

Department of Justice

Department of Justice facilities on St. Thomas and St. Croix, including the Office of the Attorney General, are closed to the public and will not conduct person to person services until further notice. Services to be provided electronically or telephonically include administrative claims and questions regarding pending criminal cases. The Sex Offender Registry also is 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. The Paternity and Child Support Division offices are closed to the public, but in-person services will be provided to accept payments. Services will be provided via telephone, fax, mail, and through the internet. Persons who wish to make payments will be allowed inside the offices until the dropbox becomes available, at which time, only money orders and checks will be accepted. For more information, visit usvidoj.codemeta.com.

Department of Labor

The VI Department of Labor will be open to the public; however, there is a limit on how many clients can be in the lobby and the maximum capacity of the resource rooms varies by district. Available services are limited, outside of Unemployment Insurance, and clients are encouraged to use the website to obtain information and find resources. Please call ahead to find out the volume of clients. For more information visit www.vidol.gov.

Department of Licensing & Consumer Affairs

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) is asking the public to use the 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. The appointment also can be scheduled by calling 340-713-3522 on St. Croix or 340-714-3522 on St. Thomas and the department also can be reached at consumerawareness@dlca.vi.gov. For more information, visit www.dlca.vi.gov.

Department of Planning & Natural Resources

All public libraries and museums will be closed, and pick up, drop off and cashier services will be available to the public only on Tuesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For in-person needs other than pick-up or drop-off services, or for general information, please call 340-774-3320 on St. Thomas or 340-773-1082 on St. Croix to schedule an appointment with the appropriate division. For more information, visit dpnr.vi.gov.

Department of Property and Procurement

Temporary hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily and will remain in effect until further notice. For more information, visit dpp.vi.gov.

Department of Public Works

The Department of Public Works will provide essential service only from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday. In-person complaints are suspended until further notice; however, complaints will continue to be accepted by telephone, email and online. All VITRAN routes have been suspended until further notice. Cemetery office guests will be limited to two guests per visit. For more information, call 340-773-1290 on St. Croix, 340-776-4844 for the St. Thomas-St. John District or visit dpw.vi.gov.

Department of Tourism

The Department of Tourism has closed its offices until further notice. Visitors or residents who have tourism-related inquiries can visit usviupdate.com or send an email to info@usviupdate.com. Messages also can be left by calling 340-774-8784 in the St. Thomas-St. John District, 340-772-0357 on St. Croix or toll-free at 1-800-372-USVI (8784). For more information, visit usviupdate.com.

Division of Personnel

All in-office visits have been suspended, and all business will be conducted electronically and telephonically whenever possible. For more information, forms, and policies, call 340-718-8588 on St. Croix or 340-774-8588 in the St. Thomas-St. John District or visit www.dopusvi.org.

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 include items purchased as of March 1, 2020. For more information, visit the Energy Office Facebook page.

Juan F. Luis Hospital & Medical Center

General visitation hours have been revised to 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. unless the visitor is a parent or guardian of a pediatric patient or infant. Prior to being allowed to enter the facility, each visitor will be screened. Isolation patients will be allowed only one visitor at a time for up to two hours per day. Visitors will be given special protective masks, gloves, and gowns that must be worn at all times. For more information, visit www.jflusvi.org.

Judicial Branch of the Virgin Islands

All in-person proceedings scheduled to commence on or before April 1 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 Stalking and Domestic Violence matters and Advice of Rights hearings, which only will take place at 9 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. For more information, contact: 340-774‐2237 or 340-693-4118 (TTY) or visit visuperiorcourt.hosted.civiclive.com.

Lieutenant Governor’s Office

The Offices of the Lieutenant Governor will operate from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, and cashier services will be available from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The following divisions will be closed to public access: VI State Health Insurance Program/Medicare; Corporations and Trademarks; and Passport Acceptance Facilities. The following divisions will provide limited public access: Office of the Tax Assessor, Office of the Tax Collector and the Division of Banking, Insurance and Financial Regulation. The following divisions will allow members of the public to drop off documents for processing but will otherwise be closed to the public: Recorder of Deeds; Cadastral; and Notary Services.Customers can visit the Division of Banking, Insurance and Financial Regulation by appointment only. Drop off boxes will be made and customers will be asked to drop off documents and collect them at a designated time as services are completed. Customers must provide contact information with their drop off packages. The drop off box for the Cadastral office will be at the Cadastral offices in each district. The drop off box for the Recorder of Deeds for the district of St. Thomas-St. John will be at the Recorder of Deeds office on St. Thomas. The drop off box for the Recorder of Deeds office for the district of St. Croix will be at the Office of the Tax Assessor in Christiansted. Customers in need of assistance can call 340-774-2991 for the St. Thomas-St. John District and 340-773-6449 for St. Croix or visit ltg.gov.vi.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Office of Collective Bargaining

The Office of Collective Bargaining will be closed 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 on St. Croix or 340-774-6450 in the St. Thomas-St. John District.

Office of the Territorial Public Defender

Offices are closed to the public through April 6, and all services will be provided telephonically and electronically when possible until further notice. For more information, call 340-773-6312 on St. Croix or 340-774-8181 in the St. Thomas-St. John District or visit vipublicdefender.com.

Office of Veterans Affairs

The Office of Veterans Affairs will limit operations territory-wide to burial arrangements only until April 6. Anyone wishing to make arrangements for the burial of a Veteran during this time should call 340-773-8387 on St. Croix or 340-774-8387 in the St. Thomas-St. John District. All other services are suspended. For more information, send an email to info_va@va.vi.gov or visit the Office of Veterans Affairs Facebook page.

VI Economic Development Authority

The VI Economic Development Authority has discontinued walk-in customer services, in-person appointments and manual delivery of documents and other items until further notice. To make a payment, file a document, or make any additional inquiries, please send an email to info@usvieda.org, call 340-714-1700 in the St. Thomas-St. John District or 340-773-6499 on St. Croix or visit usvieda.org.

VI Fire Service

The Virgin Islands Fire Service’s Prevention and Administrative Offices in both districts have limited hours of operation and are open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays only 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. For more information, visit the V.I. Fire Service Facebook page.

VI Housing Finance Authority

All EnVision Tomorrow recovery centers are closed until further notice. EnVision Tomorrow will continue to serve applicants online and by phone, and they may submit documents electronically or by a scheduled appointment only. For more information, call 1-888-239-3387 or visit vistormrecovery.com.

VI Legislature

The Legislature of the Virgin Islands has postponed all hearings and meetings in both districts and is restricting visitation to its facilities, which are closed to the public. For more information, visit www.legvi.org.

VI Lottery

The Virgin Islands Lottery offices in both districts operate from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. three days a week – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – until further notice. Only five customers are allowed in the lobby at any given time. Dealers are asked to provide requested ticket numbers in advance to avoid line delays and ensure expedient service, and Virgin Islands Lottery staff will provide dealers with their listings to make those selections once requested in advance. On-site sales on St. John are 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.

VI Police Department

The Central Records Bureau offices, Firearms Bureau offices and fingerprinting services territory-wide will be closed until further notice. For more information, visit vipd.gov.vi.

VI Public Services Commission

Offices are closed on St. Thomas and St. Croix and the PSC’s walk-in services will be restricted until further notice. All documents can be submitted electronically by calling 340-776-1291 on St. Thomas, 340-776-1391 on St. John and 340-778-6010 on St. Croix. Utility complaints will be accepted by phone. For more information, visit psc.vi.gov or the PSC Facebook page.

VITEMA

All in-person business operations and public access to VITEMA facilities territory-wide, acceptance and processing of curfew pass applications and in-office appointments are suspended until April 6. For more information, call 340-773-2244 on St. Croix, 340-776-6444 on St. John or 340-774-2244 on St. Thomas or visit vitema.vi.gov.

VI Waste Management Authority

Solid Waste disposal will adhere to the following operating hours: Anguilla Landfill on St. Croix will be open 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.