Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett met with subcontractors who have been contracted to fulfill several federally funded programs related to the U.S. Virgin Islands rebuilding efforts (including the STEP Program and other programs). The purpose of the meeting was to hear from this important group on what has worked, community concerns, payment and non-payment to them and vendors as well as processes needed to be put in place to better execute on the billions of federal dollars Plaskett and others were able to secure in disaster funding over the last two years. The Congresswoman released the following statement:
“During a recent subcontractors’ meeting I held in my office, a great deal of time was spent discussing the gruesome review and constant change of processes in not only billing but the scope of work. The subcontractors informed that a major issue in payment occurred during construction where after bids were awarded, work scopes changed due to new codes while work was already underway and change orders were not allowed. Also, subcontractors were required to produce payment bonds which were not in concert with contractual agreements; and the battle continues to be a major issue to this day.
“Particularly enlightening was the observation of contractors who have worked in other states that these issues did not occur on the ground in those jurisdictions because municipalities and states had sufficient surplus or funds set aside for disaster to pay out to contractors, subcontractors and vendors and wait for reimbursement from the federal government. The Virgin Islands does not have those additional revenues. Subcontractors all commented on the incredible spirit of the residents they worked with and in particular the integrity and hard work of Daryl Griffith, director of the Virgin Islands Housing and Finance Authority. Since the 2017 hurricanes, I have been and will continue to work with various stakeholders to support the rebuilding efforts in the Virgin Islands. I have reached out to and received commitments from my Republican colleagues who represent the districts where the subcontractors have headquarters to assist in ensuring the Virgin Islands can draw down on funds to support our rebuilding efforts.
“This meeting highlighted the importance of the Virgin Islands being able to not just utilize CDBG funding for cost-share but to press the Administration to implement the Insular Areas Act, which allows federal agencies to waive cost share requirements. This meeting enforced my desire for Governor Bryan to press the federal government to utilize the Act for our benefit. As an elected federal official and member of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have a responsibility to ensure unnecessary federal processes that often re-victimize people and jeopardy the recovery efforts for entire Virgin Islands community are fixed.”