Currently limited to $125,000, the V.I. Housing Finance Authority will be able to offer home loans up to $220,000 if a bill approved by the Housing and Labor Committee Monday becomes law.
VIHFA Executive Director Adrienne Williams gave a qualified endorsement to Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen’s bill, saying it "is indeed commendable," and would allow VIHFA to increase the number of properties accessible to its clients.
"However, it is important to point out that funding is necessary," Williams said. "There is no recent appropriation to replenish these loan programs. In order to maximize the impact of this, funding sources must be identified or an appropriation made."
The committee also sent forward two bills related to the recent closure of the Hovensa refinery and its negotiations with the government over its role in the territory now that refining has ceased.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly would require companies with more than 1,000 employees give at least 180 days before major layoffs – doubling the current 90-day requirement. It would not affect Hovensa, which has already closed.
Another measure, sponsored by Rivera-O’Reilly, Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Neville James and Craig Barshinger – all non-members of the majority caucus- seeks to establish parameters and make recommendations for the government’s negotiations with Hovensa.
The bill would require Hovensa to immediately start cleaning up the site if it has no plans to reopen the refinery; that it give its own employees and Virgin Islands residents priority for cleanup jobs and ask that the government get first dibs on leftover equipment. It also would authorize the governor to negotiate for increased access to and use of Lime Tree Bay, which is the bay used by Hovensa’s port facility.
All bills were approved unanimously by the senators present, sending them on for further review in the Rules and Judiciary Committee. Present were" Hansen, Nelson, Sens. Usie Richards and Celestino White. Absent were James, Sens. Louis Hill and Alvin Williams.