Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, released the following statement regarding the passage of the Build Back Better Act in the House of Representatives:
“Today, the House passed the Build Back Better Act. The Build Back Better Act meets the needs of Virgin Island families, now and for generations to come. From prescription drugs to childcare to family care, our bill lowers the kitchen table costs that are holding back working parents – while also delivering a major middle class tax cut and historic action on the climate crisis. Today, I proudly supported this landmark legislation, which will make a lasting difference for Virgin Island families.
“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 Act are as follows.
“Tax Credit for Investment in U.S. Territories — The Build Back Better Act 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 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 Act 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, bringing arterial roads up to federal standards and reversing 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 Act would appropriate $1 billion dollars in Department of the Interior assistance to improve critical infrastructure in the four small U.S. territories, including 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 Act 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 Act 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. Ensuring equal access to federal SSI assistance will help our neediest Virgin Islanders put food on their tables and ease the financial pressures those families are facing. Furthermore, the Build Back Better Act contains sufficient additional federal Medicaid funding to the Virgin Islands, provided indefinitely in this plan, and it creates permanent equity in federal Medicaid matching funds, which will help to improve the health security of our people for many years to come.
“I want to 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. Because it is paid for, our Build Back Better Act will also help fight inflation as our economy recovers, empowering more parents to return to the workforce and lowering the everyday expenses that weigh heaviest on working families.”