Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, released the following statement regarding the Build Back Better framework:
“Yesterday, President Biden addressed our Democratic Caucus regarding the framework to Build Back Better Act. I am pleased to announce that this historic legislation includes some very important provisions for the Virgin Islands. With the inclusion of these priorities in the current reconciliation bill, Democrats have upheld our steadfast commitment to equity, resiliency, more jobs, better health care and education, and a greener economy that are central to our Build Back Better agenda.
Notable provisions for the Virgin Islands in the Build Back Better plan are as follows:
“Tax Credit for Investment in U.S. Territories — The Build Back Better plan includes a new economic activity credit related to wages paid to employees and tangible investments of active businesses in U.S. territories. The credit would be enhanced in cases of smaller-sized employers in the territories. This credit can be used to offset new tax increases imposed on businesses in the Virgin Islands under the Trump administration. The small business provision will be especially important to stimulate economic development in the territories.
“Territorial Highway Program funding — The territories are in great need of much higher transportation infrastructure funding to recover from decades of underfunding and recent natural disasters. The Build Back Better plan would increase federal highway funding to the Virgin Islands by $128 million through fiscal year 2026. This additional funding is critical to helping the Virgin Islands catch up, bring arterial roads up to federal standards, and reverse deteriorating conditions of transportation infrastructure due to unprecedented extreme weather events. Investing in infrastructure resiliency has been a central theme of the Build Back Better agenda, and I am pleased to see the Build Back Better plan extend that principle equally to transportation infrastructure in the territories.
“Department of the Interior assistance to U.S. Territories —The Build Back Better plan would appropriate a $160 million dollars in Department of the Interior assistance to improve critical infrastructure in the Virgin Islands. This assistance is very important because critical infrastructure in the territories has been historically underfunded in federal programs, and such infrastructure is otherwise vulnerable due to factors such as remote location and challenges related to climate change.
“College Access Program for U.S. Territories — Since my first term in office, I have authored legislation to help our college bound students have choices. The Build Back Better plan would establish my plan to have a college access grants program for students in the territories to cover the difference between the tuition for in-state students and out-of-state students at participating institutions of higher education. This program will enable college-bound residents of the territories to have greater choices among institutions of higher education, and to mitigate the strain of student debt for our young people. It is important to help our students expand their options in applying to college and to make those options more affordable.
“In addition, the Build Back Better plan would finally extend the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program to residents of the Virgin Islands and other U.S. territories, and provide permanent Medicaid funding certainty to the territories. Since coming to Congress, I have been advocating for the American citizens living in the Virgin Islands and other U.S. territories to be afforded equal benefits. As early as 1973, my predecessors have been advocating and introducing legislation for the SSI benefit. In the Virgin Islands, and indeed the other territories as well, this supplemental income is needed to support our residents with the greatest needs. Ensuring equal access to federal SSI assistance will help our most needy Virgin Islanders put food on their tables and ease the financial pressures those families are facing. Furthermore, the plan contains sufficient federal Medicaid funding to the Virgin Islands provided indefinitely in this Build Back Better plan, creating equity in federal matching funds which will help to improve the health security of our people for many years to come.
“The Build Back Better plan contains numerous additional investments in children and families, economic security, education, home health care, housing, energy improvements, water and broadband infrastructure, and resiliency. The enhanced Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit are continued for an additional year through 2022.
“I want to also thank Governor Bryan and his team for coming to Washington in September and working collaboratively with our office in order to amplify these important measures which are extremely important to the economic development of the Virgin Islands.
“Finally, this framework is a testament to President Biden and Democrats in Congress who have worked tirelessly to forge this agreement, and to the activists and ordinary Americans who have fought for years, sometimes longer, to bring the America we know closer to the America we believe in. This framework along with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill is transformation for our nation. The two pieces will be generational changes that will bolster America’s economy while not leaving the American people behind. The work in Congress must continue, but today’s important agreement is an important step on our long journey to live up to our highest standards as Americans.”