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FYI: Economic Pressures

The following material is being published, unedited, exactly as it was received via e-mail from the office of the government official named below, as a Source community service. Government office holders wishing to contribute to the bulletin board must e-mail source@viaccess.net. The Source reserves the right to choose what is published.
May 9, 2008 – Virgin Islanders, I am witnessing the rising cost of living. Gas, light bills, food, and every thing you can imagine. My family feels it and I believe it is safe to assume that everyone knows the obvious–our disposable income or take home pay is not adequate for the rising cost of living in the Territory, and it has been so for a very long time. As more and more businesses close their doors due to large utility expenses, and as gas prices approach $4.50 at the pump; I am constantly reminded of one of the many legislations which I have submitted to address the dismal economic times facing us all. Last year I submitted a draft legislation to examine our living wages and develop a systematic way to understand our daily financial reality, “The Living Wage Study”. My proposed study would simply reveal to us how much it costs to subsist and function here in this island economy. By knowing this information, we would be able to realistically reflect our unique economic challenges as a territory in our policies.
As the adage goes “you don’t know where you are going if you are not aware of where you are”. Presently, the Federal guidelines such as the poverty level and the minimum wage simply do not reflect the economic realities facing Virgin Islands families. Because the dollar has less of an economic impact in the Territory due to the high cost of living here, there is a need to adjust it to reflect its true economic impact on our society. A living wage standard will assist government officials in setting eligibility guidelines for locally-funded programs and enable us to lobby the Federal Government to establish eligibility criteria that reflect the economic realities faced by Virgin Islands residents.
If we find, for example, that it costs an average of $60,000 a year for a family of four to pay for housing, food and clothing, transportation, child care, health care, etc., then we know what kinds of industries we need to attract, and what kind of jobs our people must be trained for. We must develop our own standards that address our particular circumstances so that we can begin the process of diversifying our economy to raise the standards of living for the people of the territory.
Let us make a few reasonable presumptions in regards to household costs. For example, if we were to compare ourselves to Washington DC which is the only Mainland jurisdiction that closest resembles our own, we would find a few important similarities. A single family of two, a mother and child, would need approximately $40,000 to live just above the poverty line. What would erode this gross income of $40,000? Let us take a moment and make a few educated guesses.
Monthly expenses
A two bedroom apartment in a “decent neighborhood” is roughly $1,500 +
Utilities of this apartment would be $300-$500
A modest car and its payments would be $300-$400
Gas would be $200-$400
Food would be $400-$500
Clothing/clothes would be $300-$500
Entertainment and Misc. Exp. $300-$500

If we took the conservative figures on the left column and add them up, we would get $39,600. We would be just shy of the $40,000 that has been presented as the necessary amount necessary to get by in the Virgin Islands. If we added the right column, the figures would be higher. I ask each of you to do this and let me know if it is exaggerated or not. Is this basic formula applicable to your personal experience? If so, why has this significant piece of legislation not surfaced on the floor of the Legislature? In this complex economy, it is not enough just to say,“it is so expensive to live here”. The ambiguity of that statement means nothing as an economic indicator to the people and businesses that plan for their economic survival.
Please send your e-mails to me at bottley@legvi.org and I will then forward them to the relevant parties to request support for the Living Wage Proposal; which, along with other Legislative Drafts, has been sitting in legal counsel for over thirteen (13) months.

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The following material is being published, unedited, exactly as it was received via e-mail from the office of the government official named below, as a Source community service. Government office holders wishing to contribute to the bulletin board must e-mail source@viaccess.net. The Source reserves the right to choose what is published.
May 9, 2008 - Virgin Islanders, I am witnessing the rising cost of living. Gas, light bills, food, and every thing you can imagine. My family feels it and I believe it is safe to assume that everyone knows the obvious--our disposable income or take home pay is not adequate for the rising cost of living in the Territory, and it has been so for a very long time. As more and more businesses close their doors due to large utility expenses, and as gas prices approach $4.50 at the pump; I am constantly reminded of one of the many legislations which I have submitted to address the dismal economic times facing us all. Last year I submitted a draft legislation to examine our living wages and develop a systematic way to understand our daily financial reality, “The Living Wage Study”. My proposed study would simply reveal to us how much it costs to subsist and function here in this island economy. By knowing this information, we would be able to realistically reflect our unique economic challenges as a territory in our policies.
As the adage goes “you don’t know where you are going if you are not aware of where you are”. Presently, the Federal guidelines such as the poverty level and the minimum wage simply do not reflect the economic realities facing Virgin Islands families. Because the dollar has less of an economic impact in the Territory due to the high cost of living here, there is a need to adjust it to reflect its true economic impact on our society. A living wage standard will assist government officials in setting eligibility guidelines for locally-funded programs and enable us to lobby the Federal Government to establish eligibility criteria that reflect the economic realities faced by Virgin Islands residents.
If we find, for example, that it costs an average of $60,000 a year for a family of four to pay for housing, food and clothing, transportation, child care, health care, etc., then we know what kinds of industries we need to attract, and what kind of jobs our people must be trained for. We must develop our own standards that address our particular circumstances so that we can begin the process of diversifying our economy to raise the standards of living for the people of the territory.
Let us make a few reasonable presumptions in regards to household costs. For example, if we were to compare ourselves to Washington DC which is the only Mainland jurisdiction that closest resembles our own, we would find a few important similarities. A single family of two, a mother and child, would need approximately $40,000 to live just above the poverty line. What would erode this gross income of $40,000? Let us take a moment and make a few educated guesses.
Monthly expenses
A two bedroom apartment in a “decent neighborhood” is roughly $1,500 +
Utilities of this apartment would be $300-$500
A modest car and its payments would be $300-$400
Gas would be $200-$400
Food would be $400-$500
Clothing/clothes would be $300-$500
Entertainment and Misc. Exp. $300-$500

If we took the conservative figures on the left column and add them up, we would get $39,600. We would be just shy of the $40,000 that has been presented as the necessary amount necessary to get by in the Virgin Islands. If we added the right column, the figures would be higher. I ask each of you to do this and let me know if it is exaggerated or not. Is this basic formula applicable to your personal experience? If so, why has this significant piece of legislation not surfaced on the floor of the Legislature? In this complex economy, it is not enough just to say,“it is so expensive to live here”. The ambiguity of that statement means nothing as an economic indicator to the people and businesses that plan for their economic survival.
Please send your e-mails to me at bottley@legvi.org and I will then forward them to the relevant parties to request support for the Living Wage Proposal; which, along with other Legislative Drafts, has been sitting in legal counsel for over thirteen (13) months.