U.S. Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina recently approved nearly $850,000 in grants to help with improvements to the St. Thomas East End Medical Center, provide at-risk youth with apprenticeship opportunities, strengthen V.I. Water and Power Authority capacity, and underwrite a survey, according to the Interior Department.
“It is important that the Virgin Islands have the resources to update economic indicator data for the territory," Kia’aina said in a statement announcing the grants. "Accurate and timely data is critical for investors and decision-makers with respect to the economy and in seeking fair treatment by the federal government in its allocation of federal funding to the Virgin Islands."
"The additional federal funding provided will also help strengthen capacity within the Virgin Islands Housing Authority and USVI Water and Power Authority as well as increase healthcare access provided by the St. Thomas East End Medical Center Corporation,” she added.
The new funding will break down as follows:
– St. Thomas East End Medical Center: $201,500 to support the only existing federally qualified health center in the St. Thomas-St. John district, which provides health services to more than half of the total population of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Funding will be used to upgrade, improve, and enhance existing information technology infrastructure and to help the clinic continue to provide high-quality health care to the residents of the community without regard for their ability to pay.
– V.I. Housing Authority: $242,698 to fund the YouthBuild Apprenticeship Pilot Project geared towards developing at-risk youth ages 16-24. Youth will receive training and develop skills to build and install cabinets and screens for VIHA, developers, and private homeowners. The program aims to establish itself as a non-profit 501c(3) corporation, conduct staff training, develop and administer project evaluation activities, and develop an apprenticeship business model for replication and sustainability.
– V.I. Household Expenditure Income Survey: $242,836 will fund the University of the Virgin Islands to conduct the Household Income Expenditure Survey, a statistical tool used to adjust the Consumer Price Index, and quantify household poverty and hardship in a community. Last conducted in 2005, the HIES will provide important economic indicators and data and performance measures to evaluate the development and self-sufficiency needs of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
– WAPA: $125,437 will be used to build capacity and train WAPA engineers to operate, maintain, and manage water treatment plants. Courses through the American Petroleum Institute will teach maintenance of pipelines, pressure vessels and above-ground storage tanks. The training will help WAPA engineers conduct full-scale internal inspection and evaluation to reduce costs and eliminate the need for outsourcing.
– WAPA: $35,857 will provide safety training to employees at the St. Thomas Power Plant. Funds will also be used to buy a multifunction printer that will enable the 50-year old power plant to preserve, create, and document historical plant data, and provide upgrades to a schematic electronic database.