The Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a notice Wednesday that moves the U.S. Virgin Islands a step closer to being able to access some $744 million in federal funding.
The money was approved by Congress to help the territory rebuild public housing and public facilities after two hurricanes devastated the entire territory in 2017.
This move brings the funding closer to availability, but there are still hurdles to jump.
In early August, HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced HUD would delay the aid to the U.S. Virgin Islands due to corruption and arrests in neighboring Puerto Rico and concerns about whether the USVI had the capacity to absorb and use the funds. He said HUD would release the funding in two waves; one for storm-affected states and a second, later one for Puerto Rico and the USVI.
However, Delegate Stacey Plaskett released a statement Wednesday saying Carson had informed her that HUD would issue a notice, required by Congress, with requirements and conditions to access the funding.
Plaskett said Carson “acknowledged that the U.S. Virgin Islands is, in fact, different than Puerto Rico in use of federal funding to date, and he did not dispute the work being done by the Virgin Islands Office of Disaster Recovery and the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Agency to improve financial controls and appropriately utilize funds.”
But she said Carson insisted that, because the Virgin Islands has never managed this amount of funding, capacity to use the funds must be discussed. “Although, he was not forthcoming on what exactly needed to be addressed,” she added.
Plaskett said her office will review the notice to determine what HUD believed was necessary to meet the additional administrative requirements related to capacity issues. They will then consult with V.I. agencies and Gov. Albert Bryan to determine how to proceed.