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Tuesday, September 27, 2022


A U.S. Senate subcommittee approved a $5.4 million construction grant Wednesday to help finance infrastructural improvement projects in the territory. But the grant has strings attached.
It went through the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee as an amendment by its chairman, Sen. Frank Murkowski. The funds should accelerate work on several federally mandated and court-ordered projects, such as prison expansion, improvements to the territory's wastewater treatment facilities and school construction.
However, the territory will not receive the grant if it does not meet "key financial and accountability standards," as agreed-to by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and the federal government to ensure the Virgin Islands is attempting resolve its fiscal crisis, according to a release Wednesday night from Government House.
"The elements of my administration's financial recovery plans are beginning to fall into place," Turnbull said. He is currently in Washington, D.C., meeting with federal officials.
"We welcome the additional federal assistance and accept the need for mutually agreed-upon accountability and performance standards," Turnbull said. "We know that the federal government will only begin to help us when we first act to help ourselves.
"We know that we have to accept some pain and sacrifice in the months that lie ahead in order to return to fiscal health and to ensure a brighter future for the next generation of Virgin Islanders."
The grant should become part of the fiscal Year 2000 Interior Department budget. According to a statement Wednesday from V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna Christian-Christensen, this grant should be the first in an expected multi-year federal grant program to help the territory pay for federally mandated and court-ordered capital projects.
"From the very beginning, Senator Murkowski expressed his willingness to help the Virgin Islands deal with our fiscal problems, but only if we demonstrated a willingness and commitment to make the tough choices that are necessary for us to be successful," Christensen said. "The $5 million grant . . . makes this very clear."
The grant follows FEMA's decision to defer payment of the territory's disaster loans. The V.I. government's petition to convert these loans into grants is now under consideration by the joint Virgin Islands-federal task force.
FEMA's deferment will save the territory $10 million over the next 12 months.
Earlier this week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee approved an amendment to lift the $10.50 cap on the amount of rum taxes returned to the territory for the remaining three months of the fiscal year, raising the level to $13.50.

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