How Virgin Islands expects to spend its disaster money
The U.S. Virgin Islands expects to get parts of an $800 million federal loan by mid-November.
The $800 million sum is the Virgin Islands' portion of the federal government’s $4.9 billion in operating expense loans to the territory and Puerto Rico, according to U.S.V.I. Gov. Kenneth Mapp.
In late October Pres. Trump signed a $36.5 billion supplemental disaster recovery bill that included the $4.9 billion in loans.
Mapp said he would first use the money for central government and essential services like hospitals, the Virgin Islands Ports Authority, and the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority.
Ultimately, the government plans to use the money for the current and next two fiscal years. The Virgin Islands government starts its fiscal year on Oct. 1.
Of the $800 million sum, the government will use $450 million for itself and $350 million for its semi-autonomous bodies.
On Oct. 12 Mapp sent a letter to Congress asking for a total of $5.5 billion for various purposes. Of this sum, $800 million would be for operating spending and $4.7 billion would be for government infrastructure replacements, repair, and other spending stemming from the hurricanes that hit in September.
According to a Virgin Islands spokesman the governor is now planning to ask for more than $5.5 billion but hasn’t decided on the total yet. Mapp will make the request in a trip to Washington, D.C. on Nov. 14 and 15.
On Thursday the Virgin Islands delegate in Congress, Stacey Plaskett, explained the territory’s problems to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “There is no substantial revenue being generated in the Virgin Islands right now.”
“Currently the maximum amount of disaster housing assistance is inadequate in a high cost, highly-damaged area like the Virgin Islands.”
Plaskett continued, “The islands are also in need of other important recovery funding left out of the most recent disaster bill. For example, it did not include economic development programs, nor additional support for repair of our water infrastructure, seaports, airports, and roadways, all of which has been included in previous disaster relief legislation.
“Our hospitals have been chronically underfunded for decades and our Medicaid is block granted at an amount that has no relationship to local needs.
“The territories used to be treated as a state under National Highway System programs with a percentage of the funds but this was changed to move us into a separate allotment and an amount significantly lower than what we would otherwise have received. Federal transportation funding to the islands fell behind other jurisdictions even though the traffic straining our infrastructure was often greater due to the high number of visitors year-round,” Plaskett said.
Trump has promised to support additional long-term and capital spending aid for areas hit by recent major hurricanes.