ST. CROIX–Members of the 32nd Legislature continued dialogue with Governor Kenneth Mapp, Lt. Gov. Osbert Potter and Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett on Monday. The meeting took place at Government House to discuss concerns before congressional hearings next month regarding the territory’s $5.5 billion request for disaster assistance.
Under the Stafford Act, emergency response activities, debris removal, individual assistance and housing programs distribute aid to victims through local governments and voluntary organizations. Sections within the Stafford Act could be amended to allow discretion as it pertains to rebuilding resilient schools, hospitals and other structures during the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications meeting in November. If the statute cannot be changed, appropriations will be made to provide the additional funding needed to ensure fiscal responsibility throughout the rebuilding process.
Senators inquired about any issues in the payroll process and were assured that disaster funds will be used to supplement our lack of revenue and fulfill appropriations already made through the Legislature. In response to concerns about unpaid overtime, employees were compensated for hours submitted by their departments and reconciliations have been made since the GVI’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems were restored.
Members urged that further investigation into lending issues and applicants denied in the territory for disaster assistance must be a priority, along with the changes needed to ensure residents receive appropriate funding. When compared to other disaster areas that launched the same programs, the percentage of applicants denied in the Virgin Islands are noticeably higher. Congresswoman Plaskett informed Senators that she is working on eliminate the programmatic disparities in our territories as it relates to Medicaid and Medicare. with Congresswoman Jennifer Gonzalez of Puerto Rico.
Following the condemning of several educational and government facilities, demolition of areas, relocation and reconstruction will be disclosed once approvals have been granted. Lt. Gov. Osbert Potter stated that Passport applications will not be processed until further notice.
Modular units for schools will also be assessed this week. Information will follow in the coming weeks addressing issues on Housing, Homelessness, Healthcare, Power restoration, the consolidation of postal services, settling of past due payments with critical vendors, contractors, VI Waste Management Authority (VIWMA) and WAPA.
Members present during the meeting include: Senate President Myron Jackson, Vice-President Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, Secretary Jean Forde, Senators Marvin Blyden, Novelle Francis, Alicia “Chucky”
Hansen, Positive T. A. Nelson, Tregenza Roach, Sammuel Sanes, Janelle Sarauw, Brian Smith and Kurt Vialet.