Press Releases

Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett Statement on $89.3 Billion in Disaster Relief Included In The Congressional Budget Agreement Signed Into Law

Washington, February 9, 2018

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett (USVI), Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy, and Environment of Oversight and Government Reform Committee as well as the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee released the following statement regarding the recent passing of a Continuing Resolution (CR):

“Early this morning, members of Congress approved a 2 year budget package that funds government and provides critical disaster relief to the hurricane affected areas including the U.S. Virgin Islands. This funding comes after long protracted discussion and substantial negotiation in both the Senate and the House. Our office is grateful for the work that Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) engaged in on our behalf with Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the support of Governor Mapp and his team to make this happen.

“While the funding does not include the full amount or all of requests of the Virgin Islands it will help us substantially in the rebuilding efforts. We worked very hard to see that the Virgin Islands be provided with additional Medicaid funding for the territory’s urgent health needs. The islands are provided with $142 million in additional funds through September 2019, with a 100% federal match for these new funds. The measure also provides the Virgin Islands with five years of significant additional funding through a higher rate of rum excise tax revenue paid to the Virgin Islands treasury – at $13.25 per proof gallon (from $10.50).

Congresswoman Plaskett cautions the Virgin Islands government and its people that this advancement in our rebuilding needs to be taken in context with last month’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Bill. “We must be aware that the new tax laws are likely to have the unintended consequence of providing a disincentive to companies operating in the Virgin Islands due to foreign tax treatment. Additionally, there will be lost revenue to the General Fund due to reduction in individual tax brackets, along with the lack of reimbursement to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. Tax experts predict that those losses can range from a hundred million to hundreds of millions of dollars each tax year.”

“Passage of this bipartisan and bicameral budget agreement lifts the caps on defense and non-defense discretionary funding and provides $117 billion more funding for needed non-defense investments in the areas of education, public health, infrastructure, community development, and disaster relief than proposed under the Trump FY 2018 budget.”

Included in the legislation passed by Congress are the following beneficial measures to the Virgin Islands:

• $150 million in FEMA Disaster Relief loans to assist the Virgin Islands with local cost shares.

• Critical FEMA provisions which waive requirements to rebuild critical infrastructure based on pre-disaster condition so that the Virgin Islands can rebuild stronger and more resilient.
• Provisions doubling the time period that hurricane-related revenue losses are considered for Community Disaster Loans to the Virgin Islands, which should increase the size of the loans.

• Presidential discretion to raise federal cost sharing for certain disaster assistance to 85% if recipients take steps to make themselves more resilient against disasters.

• $11 billion in CDBG loans reserved for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, of which $2 billion shall be used to improve electric systems.

• All Army Corps of Engineers projects in the Virgin Islands using such funds will be conducted at full federal expense.

• $3.6 billion for Agriculture Department disaster-related activities, including $2.36 billion for crops, trees, bushes, vines, and livestock losses from 2017 hurricanes. Under this program, payments may not exceed 65% of the loss for producers who have not obtained Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance (NAP) policies, or 85% for those that did. In order to be eligible for payments, all producers must purchase NAP for the next two years.

• 400 million is for the Farm Service Agency to provide emergency conservation efforts to mitigate future disaster risk. $541 million for USDA watershed and flood prevention activities.

• $14 million is for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for grants to the Virgin Islands (and Puerto Rico) to assist in repairing damage to WIC facilities from hurricanes.

• $2.79 billion to help restart schools in disaster affected areas (such as the Virgin Islands) and provide assistance to displaced students.

• $105 million for Customs and Border Protection activities, including $39 million specifically for customs and border enforcement activities in the Virgin Islands (and Puerto Rico).

• Compensation is also provided for reduced collections for the U.S. Virgin Islands Deposit Fund due to port damage and a decline in trade resulting from hurricanes.

• $1.8 billion, including $1.4 billion to repair federal highways, and $115 million for FAA operations to repair and rebuild airport infrastructure.

• This funding also includes an important waiver of the $20 million cap on federal highway aid emergency relief to U.S. territories.

• Authorization for HUD to adjust Section 8 voucher funding for public housing authorities.

• $257 million to the Department of Interior for National Park Service construction and historic preservation grants.

• $3 million for the Office of Insular Affairs to provide technical assistance to the Virgin Islands.

• $63.2 million, including a provision granting the Virgin Islands (and Puerto Rico) access to previously appropriated State Revolving Fund money in Environmental Protection in order to help rebuild clean water and drinking water systems more resilient than before the storms.

• $130.9 million to the Labor Department, including provisions deferring Virgin Islands unemployment insurance interest payments by one year.

The bill also provides flexibility for the Virgin Islands to transfer 2016 and 2017 Youth Workforce Investment program funds among the Youth, Adult, and Dislocated Worker training categories.

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View text of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

Plaskett Statement on $89.3 Billion Disaster Relief In Congressional Budget Agreement