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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs and Culture, chaired by Sen. Myron D. Jackson, met on Tuesday at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall to receive status updates and discuss challenges within the Departments of Labor, Licensing & Consumer Affairs, the Virgin Islands Transfer Centennial Commission and the Virgin Islands Carnival Committee.

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, represented by Commissioner Devin Carrington, Esq., gave testimony outlining the issues with their responsibility of regulating businesses that engage in the sale of goods and services in the territory. Although the DLCA is authorized to implement price control measures on specific essential consumer commodities, no such measure has been taken by the department in the last eleven years.

The DLCA, in conjunction with the Dept. of Justice is currently conducting a study on gas and food prices. The contract for this study, which is exclusively focused on the US Virgin Islands, was awarded to a third-party. “Now, the study is in its final stages of completion and should be available in the next two months,” Commissioner Carrington clarified.

The Virgin Islands Carnival Committee, provided a brief testimony on the Committee’s observance of the Centennial Celebration. Executive Director, Halvor Hart III, announced that the 2017 Carnival theme is “A Centennial Commemoration for Our 65th Carnival Celebration”. In addition to the celebration, this year’s Prince, Princess, Queen & Calypso monarch will become the 1st Centennial royalty of the Virgin Islands. In addition to the $5 entry fee into the Adults village, three entry and safety checkpoints will be established around the venue. Free admission into the Carnival village applies to children ages 12 and under. Questions concerning safety and admission were raised, noting that the stage will be constructed on the east side of the Fort Christian parking lot.

Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen disagreed with the idea that a fence should be used around the perimeter of the Village and disappointed with the lack of moral and financial support for local bands and artists during cultural events.

In response to an inquiry by Sen. Brian Smith, the Virgin Islands Carnival Committee receives an annual allotment of $545,000 from the General Fund. Other sources of funding are received in kind from businesses in the private sector. Chairman Jackson understood the need for revenues and profit margins, but stated that it should our profit not come at the cost of the participants and visitors attending the festivities.

Commissioner Catherine Hendry, Esq., of the Department of Labor expressed in her testimony, “Our mission is to administer a system of effective programs and services designed to develop, protect and maintain a viable workforce. We work to achieve a well-organized/efficient motivated team that helps to ensure the success of our territory in a global economy through pooling and streamlining our resources “to pull out all the stops” and produce a work ready labor force that is dynamic, career driven, adaptable, technically literate, protected and can meet the needs of employers in a demand driven work environment.”

The Dept. of Labor faces many challenges with their federal programs and training services in the territory. On December 20, 2016, they were notified by USDOL Employment and Training Administration that several of the federal grants were designated as “high-risk” due to outstanding unresolved audit and monitoring findings that trace as far back as 2009. Because of the “high-risk” designation, ETA requires VIDOL to implement Corrective Actions in specific areas. “This department has an extensive responsibility of making sure that the workforce of this territory is well prepared with their programs to meet the demands and needs of our modern society,” said Chairman Jackson.

The workforce development system continues to provide workforce development services to both job seeker and employer customers territory wide. These services and related activities are primarily supported through USDOL-ETA funded grants in accordance with guidelines prescribed by the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA). The Workforce Development team along with its newly mandated program partners, Department of Human Services, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Department of Education, Division of Adult Education, have met to facilitate the preparation of the Virgin Islands Five-Year Strategic Plan.

Chairman Pamela Richards of the Virgin Islands Transfer Centennial Commission sent a letter explaining the Commission’s absence from today’s meeting. “After much consideration, we have determined that, considering the critical preparations and meetings scheduled to ensure the success of the upcoming events that culminate in our Transfer Day observance on March 31, 2017, we will be unable to provide testimony now.”

The Commission stated that they would be pleased to appear after the activities have been hosted. The Committee on Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs and Culture concluded with the members suggesting the Virgin Islands Carnival Committee to consult with the Virgin Islands Police Department to ensure all viable options are considered in regards to public safety and they begin to consider new plans to alleviate the traffic and parking issues along the Waterfront in Downtown Charlotte Amalie.