CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Governor Albert Bryan welcomed Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge to the U.S. Virgin Islands on Friday, during her visit that follows on the heels of Governor Bryan’s meeting with her in Washington, D.C., in February.
Secretary Fudge toured the Donoe affordable housing project underway on St. Thomas and the Celestino White Sr. Senior Citizens Residence in Sugar Estate, then hosted an in-person and virtual meeting with representatives from the territory’s nonprofits and offered HUD’s assistance with their housing programs and initiatives.
Governor Bryan, who is in Washington, D.C., for official meetings, appeared virtually to open the meeting and welcome Secretary Fudge to the USVI, thanking her for her efforts at the highest level of the federal government on behalf of the territory.
“We really appreciate the attention the Virgin Islands has gotten on this matter and hope that while your there you’re staying to see some of the issues that confront us on a daily basis in trying to get back to where we were four or five years ago,” Governor Bryan said. “And I’m going to say that what we’re experiencing at this time is not a recovery. It’s a total transformation of the Virgin Islands, and I hope you’ll have an opportunity to see our Magens Bay development to see the types of development that we’re doing and the kind of housing that we have.”
Secretary Fudge opened the meeting with the nonprofits by saying that her next visit to the Territory will be to St. Croix and telling them that the president is very concerned about the Virgin Islands, as is she.
The secretary spoke of a sense of urgency to spending the federal funding available to the U.S. Virgin Islands to accomplish the housing projects and recovery initiatives throughout the Territory, and she offered any necessary assistance to the Government of the Virgin Islands and the local nonprofit community at the highest levels of HUD.
“This administration has put more dollars into states and territories than any president in history, and we need you to succeed… but we can’t wait forever,” Secretary Fudge said. “One of the reasons I am here is to try to find a way to be helpful so that your recovery is stronger and more equitable.”
Secretary Fudge warned that Congress has only a finite amount of money and if they see little progress they will take funds and use them elsewhere, and she said the Territory needs to use plentiful federal funding available through in a way that is strategic and smart on things that are going to be resilient and long-lasting.
“What I am asking is for you to work with some urgency, and we want to help you do it,” Secretary Fudge said. “In the president’s budget that was released Monday, he’s asking for 200,000 vouchers. But it doesn’t make any difference how many vouchers we have if there’s no place for people to live. So, again, we need to move with some urgency.”
Interim V.I. Housing Finance Authority Executive Director Dayna Clendinen and V.I. Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Graham hosted Secretary Fudge and her staff and escorted them on walking tours of the affordable housing project underway in Estate Done that is part of the housing initiatives under construction to replace the Tutu Hi-Rise and Ras Valley housing communities that were destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“Along with these funding opportunities, I was excited in our discussion to focus on other areas – such as providing technical assistance – in which we can help our stakeholders be successful,” Interim Director Clendinen said. “In truth, charitable non-profits and governments are natural partners, as we serve the same constituents within the community. Therefore, the challenges of one are challenges for all, and working together allows us all to leverage our collective resources to serve our community even better.”
Governor Bryan’s Chief of Staff Karl Knight participated in the meeting with the nonprofits on the Governor’s behalf.
Staff members traveling with Secretary Fudge included Deputy Assistant Secretary of HUD Alan Williams, HUD’s Disaster Recovery and Planning Specialist for the Virgin Islands Jessie Huddleston and Efrain Maldonado, director of HUD’s Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands Field Office.
The local nonprofit organizations that participated in-person and virtually from St. Croix included:
• Community First of St Croix
• St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group
• Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands
• Love City Strong
• Women’s Coalition of St Croix
• Methodist Training Outreach Center
• St. Croix Foundation for Community Development
• Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands
• Island Green Living Association-St. John
• St. John Community Foundation
• Continuum of Care, Inc., St. Croix
• Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands
• Legal Services of the Virgin Islands