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Bryan Says He Approves Of Congress’ COVID-19 Relief Bill With Provisions To Pay Tenants’ Past Due Rent

CHRISTIANSTED — Governor Albert Bryan said he welcomes the federal funding coming to the U.S. Virgin Islands from Congress’ $900 billion COVID-19 relief measure that President Trump signed into law on Sunday, and he said the much-needed federal assistance will bring some level of support to Virgin Islanders and local businesses as the pandemic continues. 

“While there is a debate in Congress about what level of relief the federal government should provide to Americans and American businesses, the funding provided in the bill is sorely needed by Virgin Islands residents and businesses alike,” Bryan said. “There are a number of provisions in the measure that directly benefit the territory, and I want to specifically note the $600 direct Stimulus payments to residents and the CDC’s extension of the rent moratorium through January 21.” 

The governor said that the process of distributing the Stimulus checks authorized under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 will go much more quickly because the vast majority of data and information needed to process and mail the checks was completed during the first round of payments and the Bureau of Internal Revenue already has begun the distribution process. 

“We know people needed this money weeks ago, and we are committed to getting it in residents’ hands as soon as possible,” he said. “In addition to the rent moratorium being extended, I want to note that we expect to receive a significant amount of federal funding that has been designated for rental assistance programs.” 

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 includes $25 billion to establish the first emergency federal rental assistance program to be distributed by state and local governments, and the funds are for families impacted by COVID-19 who are struggling to pay the rent and may have past due rent. The assistance can be used to pay past due rent and future rent, as well as utility and energy bills to prevent a shutoff.  

Governor Bryan said a separate section of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which contains the COVID-19 relief package but is unrelated to it, gives Congressional approval to local projects under the Water Resources Development Act. Those projects include the navigation projects for Christiansted Harbor and St. Thomas Harbor; the Savan Gut flood control project; and the Turpentine Run Road flood control project. 

“Authorization for these projects has been a significant USVI priority for some time, and their inclusion in the Consolidated Appropriations Act is a major ‘win’ for the Territory,” Governor Bryan said.  

A number of the provisions of the federal COVID-19 relief portion of the ACT directly affecting the U.S. Virgin Islands include: 

  • The period for using Coronavirus Relief Fund monies from the CARES Act is extended to December 31, 2021. 
  • The USVI is eligible to receive a minimum of $100 million in funds through the Education Stabilization Fund to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus in schools. 
  • Significant funding is made available for testing, contact-tracing, surveillance, containment and mitigation of COVID-19 and vaccine distribution and administration in the USVI. 
  • Significant funding is available to the Territory through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grants. 
  • About $5 million to $7 million in Child Care and Development Block Grants will be available to supplement State revenue funds for child care assistance. 
  • About $3 million is earmarked for Fisheries Disaster Assistance. 
  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program is extended through April 5, and the number of weeks an individual can claim benefits increases from 39 to 50. 
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation is extended through March 14 at $300 per week. 
  • Another $245 billion in Paycheck Protection Program funds is available for businesses. 
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