St. Croix–The Committee on Finance, Chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet, received testimony on the FY 2022 Executive Budget from the Department of Human Services (DHS) on Monday in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room, St. Croix.
Kimberley Causey-Gomez, Commissioner of DHS, said the DHS has a multifaceted FY 2022 budget of $369,300,475.25, including federal multi-year grants, ending as far as 2025. DHS is expected to receive federal funding in the amount of $291,676,866.25.
She pointed out that this budget reflects a General Fund Budget of $75,085,610, increasing by 31-percent from Fiscal Year 2021. The breakdowns are distributed as: Personnel- $22,867,346, Fringe- $10,343,549, Supplies- $856,777, Other Services and Charges- 38,841,438, Utility-$2,127,000, and Capital Outlay- $49,500.
Their programs, she added, include (1) Energy Crisis- $1,100,000; (2) Homemakers- $125,000; (3) Centennials- $25,000, and (4) Mission Outreach- $20,000. These programs are included in the $75,085,610 and reflects a total of $1,270,000.
According to the Commissioner, additionally, DOH receives Non-appropriated Special Funds for $2,538,000 including Pharmaceutical Assistance Program- $1,750,000; Senior Citizens Center Fund- $500,000; and Homes for the Aged Revolving Fund-$288,000.
The Commissioner pointed out that the Division of Family Assistance (DFA) has the lowest number of staff in over a decade, distributed $52,940,909 in benefits to qualified persons from October 1, 2020, to May 31, 2021. The program distributed (1) Regular SNAP and Pandemic Supplemental Nutrition Assistance-$50,674,656. (2) (Cash Assistance TANF Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled General Asst-$1,553,634; and (3) Energy Assistance: Electrical Bills and Cooking Gas-$712,619).
She pointed out that the DHS is not a revenue-generating entity for the Virgin Islands. Just through food, cash, and energy benefits distributed by the Division of Family Assistance, over $70 million is added to the economy.
Causey-Gomez said the Virgin Islands Medicaid Program is one of the most essential publicly funded health insurance programs for low-income persons in the Territory. Medicaid provides access to quality health care for approximately 33,500.00 members. In FY 2021, DHS was awarded $129 million in enhanced federal funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
According to the Commissioner, with valuable assistance from the 34th Legislature, which appropriated $407,000 for 32 positions in the FY 2021 Miscellaneous Budget, the DHS moved forward in creating the Medicaid Program Integrity Unit, which will bring them into full compliance with the requirements of the 2019 Public Law Program Integrity Lead.
Regarding the Office of Head Start, she said DHS Head Start has successfully applied for multiple Office of Head Start Disaster Recovery Grants, 11 of which are for major construction projects to provide state-of-the-art environments for the children of the Virgin Islands.
The Territory, she added, has received grants awards for 2 of the 11 major construction applications for $3,764,132. These grants are also a grant award of $3,537,408 to construct and renovate Head Start Playgrounds and $1,749,151 for other program improvement projects.
The last item on the day’s agenda was Bill No. 34-0073, which is an Act relating to the allocations of federal funds designated for the Territory and for other related purposes. Senate President Donna A. Frett-Gregory in presenting the legislation, termed the proposed Act as a 34th Legislature Bill, which seeks to have accountability and transparency on the expending of the CARES Act Funds. After discussion among senators, the Bill was unanimously approved and forwarded to Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.
Senators in attendance on Monday were: Chairman Kurt A. Vialet, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Janelle K. Sarauw, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Marvin A. Blyden, Javan E. James, Alma Francis Heyliger, Milton E. Potter, Samuel Carrión and Novelle E. Francis, Jr. and Carla J. Joseph.