Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, released the following statement as the House of Representatives prepares to pass legislation to keep the government running:
“This week, the House is expected to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through December and avoid a government shutdown, which would be catastrophic for families and the economy as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am pleased to announce that this bill includes a provision to cancel the outstanding balances of Community Disaster Loans (CDLs) issued by FEMA to the Virgin Islands after the hurricanes. This will save the Virgin Islands more than $300 million in much needed revenue.
“It will also remove restrictions imposed on the territory’s ability to obtain financing to mitigate massive revenue losses caused by the pandemic and preceding severe hurricane disasters. The territory’s continuing financial difficulties have been exacerbated by the Community Disaster Loans (CDLs) — not only because of their repayment obligations but also because of their impact the territory’s ability to access other forms of needed financing. The terms of the CDL promissory notes give FEMA and the U.S. Treasury the ability to preempt any further borrowing by the Virgin Islands and encumbers a major revenue stream.
“The (Continuing Resolution) CR also extends the current enhanced rate of federal matching funds (89.2%) for Medicaid in the Virgin Islands through December 3, 2021 (the life of the continued federal government funding), averting a sharp decline in the rate of federal Medicaid funding to the Virgin Islands. My office, working with the local government and other members of Congress representing the territories, was able to change the rate of federal matching funds in 2017 on a temporary basis, which we have been able to continue. That change in federal match for Medicaid along with raising the amount paid by Medicaid has allowed the Government of the Virgin Islands to enroll over 20,000 additional Virgin Islanders in Medicaid providing vital healthcare to our community.
“Also included in the bill is a suspension of the debt limit through December 2022. Addressing the debt limit is about meeting obligations our government has already made, including to our Social Security recipients, to our veterans and to the millions who stand to benefit from the bipartisan COVID relief legislation passed in December – which was authored by multiple GOP senators and voted for by more than 40 Republicans and signed into law by the previous president.
“I am proud of the work being done by the House Democratic Caucus to meet our responsibilities and advance the interest of all Americans. I am hopeful the bill will pass, and I am grateful to House leadership for including the forgiveness of the Virgin Islands outstanding Community Disaster Loans in this CR, which will avert a government shutdown. I want to thank Governor Bryan for his continued request for this forgiveness, and I am hopeful that he and our legislature will leverage this opportunity to the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands.”