LAWMAKERS VET PROPOSED FY 2021 BUDGET FOR THE V.I. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AND THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

Published: Jun 25, 2020

ST. THOMAS – Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt A. Vialet convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building on Thursday to receive testimony on the proposed Fiscal Year 2021 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States. Invited testifiers are officials from the Virgin Islands Department of Labor (VIDOL) and the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The recommendation for the Department of Labor FY 2021 Budget totals $8,069,238; a 26% reduction of the initial request of $10,902,980. The Virgin Islands Department of Labor Commissioner Gary Malloy stated that the FY 2021 budget reduction that substantially affected the personnel and operating categories, was due to the adverse impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Territory. As a result of revenue restrictions that affected the FY 2021 budget, locally funded vacancies decreased to five positions totaling $229,152. Additionally, the Unemployment Insurance employer contribution payment reduced to $217,519; which parallels the contribution amount of DOL; according to Malloy. The budget breakdown is as follows: $5,142,762 is for salaries and fringe benefits for 46.19 positions and $2,926,476 for mandatory operating costs. Furthermore, Malloy noted that DOL is slated to receive $1,203,216 from the Government Insurance Fund for personnel services and $587,696 for mandatory operating expenses. Federal Funds has appropriated $4,413,680 to DOL to cover salaries and fringe benefits and $2,313,316 for mandatory operating costs.

Moreover, the National Dislocated Worker Grant awarded DOL $1.5 million to employ dislocated workers who became unemployed because of COVID-19. Sen. Athneil “Bobby” Thomas inquired about the number of participants DOL assisted thus far. DOL Assistant Commissioner Cindy Richardson stated that the program will officially begin next month. However, eighty people have signed up on the list. In response to Sen. Vialet’s inquiry about the challenges of job placements, Malloy mentioned that the issues are employers who are a part of the DOL job pool may not have vacancies. Sen. Vialet said, “I want to get our young people employed because employers are willing to train and hire. I am not just referring to major firms but local businesses who are vested in the community may have vacancies also.” Separately, Malloy mentioned that the Workers Compensation Administration received $6,000,000 and expended $3,012,221 to paid injured workers, paid injured workers to travel, and paid providers throughout the Virgin Islands.

Separately, the Public Service Commission Executive Director Donald Cole stated that PSC is funded by assessments of utilities it regulates under the law. Therefore, the FY 2021 budget totals $1,794,457.70. In comparison to the FY 2020 allotment, it is a reduction of $1,275,498. However, the Post Audit Report states that because of Act 8232, the Commission was appropriated $1,795,765. Defending the FY 2021 budget, Cole noted that there are numerous challenges that the Commission must address to include financial, technical, and legal matters. The budget breakdown is as follows: $903,781 for personnel services, $60,200 for utilities, $366,565 for other services and charges, $54,700 for supplies, $369,211 for fringe benefits, and $40,000 for capital outlay.                                                                                                           ###

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