Governor Bryan Says Territory Would Get $2.25 Billion if HEROES Act Passes Congress

MAY 18, 2020 | 5:07 PM AST

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — During his COVID-19 briefing Monday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. said that the HEROES Act going through Congress as another stimulus measure from the COVID-19 pandemic would result in $2.25 billion in federal aid for the Territory to mitigate the financial tsunami the virus has caused in the U.S. Virgin Islands if it passes.

“This is much-needed aid and would go a long way towards the financial tsunami that is mounting as this pandemic continues,” Governor Bryan said. “As I have said before, no one seems to have a good handle on how long this will last or if the virus will resurface in the fall. We must be conservative in the way we spend all our money, whether it is from the General Fund or federal dollars.”

The Governor also urged the 33rd Legislature to act quickly on his proposed Cannabis Act legislation in order to shore up the Government Employees Retirement System, which is suggesting a 42 percent cut in benefits – an option the Governor said is “clearly not an option.”

“While we cannot fix the entire GERS in one fell swoop, we do have pending legislation in the Cannabis Act that will start to chip away at the problem,” Governor Bryan said. “We continue to work in Washington to identify a funding source for a cash infusion and lobby for the gas tax rebate but these things are not in our control, they are up to the federal government. We must act on the things that are.

“We have listened to the concerns of the public and our senators have included them in the new draft of the bill,” Governor Bryan said about the amended Cannabis Act before the 33rd Legislature. “I am urging the Legislature to act swiftly and pass this revenue measure as soon as possible.”

Stimulus checks

  • To date, 6,271 checks have been mailed out totaling $9.9 million.
  • Another $10 million in stimulus funds is scheduled to be sent out this week.
  • The Social Security Administration said it will share the data that will allow Social Security recipients to get checks without having to file a 2018 tax return.
  • The Territory still is awaiting details and the listing from the Social Security Administration.

YES credits

  • YES Program credits began appearing on V.I. Water and Power Authority bills on May 7.
  • To date, 10,492 residential customers received a $250 credit and 2,397 commercial ratepayers have received a $500 credit.

Unemployment benefits

  • Applications continue to be processed, and, to date, the Labor Department has received 8,074 unemployment applications since April 7.
  • 5,208 checks totaling more than $3.7 million have been issued.
  • Almost twice the number of  claims processed in a typical year have been processed in 60 days.
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funds are retroactive to April 4 and will continue weekly until July 31.
  • Unemployment benefit checks are a form of taxable income, and a considerable amount of money to be paid in taxes will be required on the next income tax filing for those who don’t opt to withhold taxes from the checks on the front end.

COVID-19 cases

  • Currently tracking 2 active cases
  • 1,348 individuals tested to date
  • 1,272 of those tests were negative
  • 69 tests came back positive
  • 61 recovered
  • 7 tests are pending
  • 6 fatalities to date
  • No COVID-19 patients are hospitalized at Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.
  • One COVID-19 patient is hospitalized on a ventilator at Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas. The patient was aboard a vessel in severe respiratory distress and was allowed into the Territory for medical treatment and was immediately quarantined in accordance with strict medical protocol.