ST. CROIX–The Committee on Education and Workforce Development, chaired by Senator Genevieve Whitaker, continued to meet Monday afternoon with it’s agenda in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room.
The Committee received testimony from the Virgin Islands Board of Education and the Virgin Islands Department of Education concerning the School Accountability Report and the plans for the 2021-2022 reopening of schools. Additionally, the Committee received upates from the VI Department of Labor (VIDOL), VI Workforce Development Board (VIWDB), VI Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA), and the Department of Property & Procurement (DPP) relating to information on the implementation of the Government of the Virgin Islands’ Professional Services contract and the Skills for Today Workforce Development Award.
Gary Molloy, Commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Labor (VIDOL), said In September of 2017, the Virgin Islands was devasted by two Category 5 storms, which caused significant destruction to houses, infrastructure, and the economy. In the aftermath, he added, it became clear the Territory had a critical need to create a skilled workforce in many areas, especially in areas related to disaster recovery.
Molloy pointed out that in July 2018, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds to the Territory to address unmet needs caused by the hurricanes and to foster mitigation activities.
According to Molloy, The CDBG-DR funds allotted from HUD are assigned after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds, insurance, and other federal or private sources are accounted for. He added that VIHFA manages these funds, and spending is prioritized in programs designed through the CDBG-DR.
Molly said by July 2019, VIDOL had submitted several applications to develop and refine the scope, eligibility, and budget for the overall project. On October 31, 2019, Governor Bryan Jr. approved the VIDOL to become a Subrecipient of CDBG-DR funds from VIHFA to administer workforce training programs.
On October 8, 2020, said Molloy, VIDOL received from VIHFA a notice to proceed, allowing VIDOL to offer a solicitation for the project. It was made clear that VIDOL had to submit the procurement, upload the advertisement, and state that the project could not exceed $10,000,000. The project cost would be inclusive of the VIHFA activity fee.
Daryl Griffith, Executive Director, VIHFA said, his agency is the custodian of CDBG-DR funds. He added that HUD awarded the Territory approximately $1.8 billion in CDBG-DR funding. Those who receive grant money include state and local agencies, non-profit organizations, economic development agencies, residents, and businesses.
According to Griffith, DOL’s proposed project will provide varied training opportunities, including, but not limited to, the construction field for low to moderate-income residents in the
Territory, by offering entry-level training in high-growth construction occupations based on current labor market information.
He added that the goal is to train an estimated six hundred and twenty (625) individuals throughout twenty-four (24) months, a portion of which includes employment for those participating in work-based learning. He said the selected project management individual or firm would be responsible for all areas of the project, including the procurement of Training Providers, who will teach all areas of study for the certification.
According to Griffith, in February 2021, DPP favorably recommended that DOL enter into contract negotiation with ICF Incorporated, LLC. ICF was selected among nine (9) RFP’s received. The Cost of the contract stipulates that ICF Incorporated LLC will train 640 individuals in occupations involved in skill training include construction, leisure, and hospitality.
Griffith also noted that in June 2021, DOL and ICF Incorporated, LLC’s contract was approved by the Government. The Cost of the contract is $9,010,085.76.
Other testifiers present regarding the contract were: Commissioner Anthony Thomas, DPP, and Adele Soto, ICF Project Director for ICF Incorporated, LLC.
Senators at Monday’s hearing were: Chairwoman Genevieve R. Whitaker, Janelle K. Sarauw, Donna Frett-Gregory, Kurt A. Vialet, Kenneth L. Gittens, Milton E. Potter, and Carla J. Joseph