Sen. DeGazon sends letter to Senate President calling for action on sitting economic bills
Updated: Jun 9
Currently the Virgin Islands is in a very vulnerable state while waiting on pending results from the $2 trillion+ federal stimulus package known as the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” or “CARES Act” which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Friday. During this time, it is imperative that the Virgin Islands Legislature is diligent and take proactive steps to make sure it bolsters the local economy and put the Virgin Islands in a position for economic resurgence once this crisis subsides.
Due to this, Sen. Allison L. DeGazon has submitted a letter to Senate President Novelle E. Francis Jr., calling on him to act on several economic development bills that have been sitting, under his purview for months.
“Through normal research conducted by my team on bills that can impact the economy, it was obvious that we have several economic bills sent by the Honorable Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and from our own members that are still pending from as far back as the first quarter of 2019,” DeGazon said, noting that her letter was sent to Francis because the Senate President is the only member of the legislature who can sponsor bills submitted by the Governor.
These bills include but are not limited to:
· The establishment of an agency that will manage and porter all federal funds and grants coming into the territory thereby providing a centralized view of said funds, foster financial transparency and accountability,
· To establish a tax on all international monetary exports being sent and received from the United States Virgin Islands,
· Legislation to amend Act No. 8178 regarding approval of terms for a proposed revolving Line of Credit,
· The addition of a new Chapter in the VI Code to enable the establishment and use of Business Improvement Districts in the Territory for the enhancement of our economy, and is needed to facilitate application of CDBGDR funding for housing and economic development,
· Legislation to enact and establish the First Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Act 2020 which would include Telehealth for a vulnerable population allowing for doctors outside of the USVI with medical licenses to provide care in the VI; and a New Medical Facility for a vulnerable population, as COVID-19 has shown us the importance of such a facility
· An agreement for Employee Paid Critical Illness, Accidental Injury and Hospital Care Insurance between the Government of the Virgin Islands, through the GESC/Health Insurance Board of Trustees, and the VIPA, UVI, EEMC and FHC and Life Insurance of North America (CIGNA) to ensure that the employees have insurance coverage in the face of a pandemic
“Based on the content of these bills, now is the time for the Senate President and the Chair of the Committee on Finance to come together and get these bills heard. I reached out to the Governor to discuss the economy and out of concern I urged him to do his part as well as to offer the Senate President a hand in collaboration,” DeGazon said.
The senator also proposed that the Governor should use some of the COVID-19 funds to purchase food from local farmers for the No Child Goes Hungry Program and for the Department of Agriculture to be disseminated through the community. The senator believes that these funds serve as a stimulus to the farmers and fishers as they are not privy to the same loans and offerings as other small businesses because once again, they are left out of the equation.
“Right now, leadership matters and the legislature and its leadership must rise up,” DeGazon said. “These bills should be immediately moved through the process. I am calling on your leadership to make it happen.”
DeGazon said the legislature can no longer let a slow process keep them from exerting their position as the first branch of government.
“I am calling on the Finance Committee chair and other willing senators to make the time to work on these bills collectively as we did with the COVID-19 measures. I refuse to sit back and watch as others nationwide take steps to bring their local economy back to its feet while our bills—which can do the same—are at a standstill,” she said. “This should be our priority for the people of the territory.”