ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Disaster Recovery and Infrastructure, chaired by Senator Janelle K. Sarauw, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building, to receive testimony on the status of the proposed infrastructure plans and implementation regarding the funding obligated to the Government of the Virgin Islands under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The invited testifiers were officials from the Virgin Islands Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
“It was important for us to have a discussion on the use of the American Rescue Plan Act because the people in the Territory should be aware of what is happening with those funds as it impacts affordable housing, healthcare, and education. This hearing brings a level of accountability,” said Sen. Sarauw.
In October 2021, OMB submitted to the United States Treasury the 2021 Recovery Plan Performance Report per the requirement of the Interim Final Rule, according to OMB Director Jenifer O’Neal. The report detailed the action plan for the Government of the Virgin Islands to utilize funding allocated from the American Rescue Plan Act. Some of the goals consist of improving the quality of life for residents, mitigating COVID-19 in the community, crime reduction, and providing educational, emotional, and economic support to vulnerable populations. Furthermore, O’Neal mentioned that the ARPA funds are to be utilized to establish affordable housing developments, increase workforce development, subsidized housing programs, and assist economic support programs.
Thus far, a total of $531,260,477 out of $547,176,884 of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) established by ARPA were received, according to O’Neal, who shared the general breakdown of the funds. The monies are inclusive of the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund totaling $515,344,070, the Non-Entitlement Unit allocation of $5,582,445, and the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds totaling $10,333,962. Additionally, O’Neal indicated that $615,639,271 out of $746,395,614 for funding from the territorial and direct recipient grants were received. GVI is slated to receive the remaining balance of $15,916,407 from the Non-Entitlement Unit allocation. O’Neal noted that as of December 31, 2021, GVI expended $17,186,521.16. Senator Kurt Vialet stated that full transparency of how GVI expends the $547,176,884 over the upcoming fiscal years is significant. As legislators, it is important to ensure that several infrastructure repairs are completed and be able to supplement the budget of GVI as necessary.
Regarding the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, O’Neal indicated that the major expenditure categories are budgeted as follows: $81,750,000 for Public Health, $33,667,070 for Negative Impacts, Services to Disproportionately Impacted Communities, $46,000,000 for Premium Pay, $163,227,000 for Infrastructure, $180,700,000 for Revenue Replacement, and $1,832,814 for administrative costs of GVI.
However, O’Neal cautioned that ARPA monies cannot be used to fund debt service, reductions in net tax revenue resulting from tax cuts, or to provide a significant contribution to a pension fund.
Senators attending the meeting: Janelle K. Sarauw, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Genevieve R. Whitaker, Kenneth L. Gittens, Kurt A. Vialet, Samuel Carrión, Carla J. Joseph, and Alma Francis Heyliger, Franklin D. Johnson and Javan E. James, Sr.
THE VIRGIN ISLANDS TAXICAB COMMISSION SHARES AN UPDATE, THE COMMITTEE APPROVES SEVERAL MEASURES
ST. THOMAS - Members of the Committee on Government Operations, Veterans Affairs, and Consumer Protection, chaired by Senator Carla J. Joseph, convened a meeting at the Capitol Building. Lawmakers were updated on the status of the Taxicab Commission (VITCC) regarding...