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LABOR DEPARTMENT: Two-Thirds of All Unemployment Checks Went To St. Thomas After Hurricanes

CHARLOTTE AMALIE –– The commissioner of the Labor testified before the Senate Committee dealing with her department and said that unemployment and disaster assistance checks totaled $12,157,398 up until mid January 2018.

The majority of the unemployment checks went to St. Thomas, with $7,150,271 worth for 6,682 applicants as of Jan. 17, 2018, Labor Commissioner Catherine Hendry said. On St. Croix, some 4,353 people were paid $2,589,929 in unemployment claims, Hendry said. And on St. John, 730 checks were processed totaling $1,085,412, she said.

The diverse numbers represent the number of greater number of jobs available in St. Thomas and the fact that so many employers must be “on-the-books” on the capital island, as opposed to St. Croix.

The Labor Department said that 11,773 people territory-wide qualified for disaster assistance unemployment which includes the self-employed.

Hendry said $493,405 was paid in unemployment claims to people now living off island. In all, Labor processed 13,315 checks as on Jan. 17.

For disaster assistance unemployment, 421 people were helped on St. Thomas; 732 people on St. Croix and 32 people on St. John. St. Croix’s payments for disaster assistance totaled $413,669 and on St. John the total was $92,420.

People living off-island got 15 checks for disaster assistance totaling $11,773. Unemployment checks accounted for $11,307,144.

The disasters of Hurricanes Irma and Maria also triggered the U.S. Department of Labor’s extended benefits program which will allow people to draw unemployment for an additional 13 weeks, Hendry said.

“VIDOL will be implementing this program in the coming weeks,” she said.

Hendry added that if someone still does not have access to the Internet at home that they can come to any Department of Labor office and use their computers there.

The Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Consumer Affairs and Culture is chaired by St. Thomas Sen. Janelle Sarauw.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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