Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett released the following statement on the announcement of regulatory guidance regarding mitigation funds to the U.S. Virgin Islands:
“The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced that regulatory guidance that will govern plans of action for additional disaster relief funding, for mitigation activities, will be released for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands separately from other disaster-impacted areas.
“According to HUD, the delay is due to capacity issues in the case of the Virgin Islands and alleged corruption in the case of Puerto Rico. As a matter of record, I successfully had language included in the recently passed Disaster Relief Act of 2019, where Congress requires HUD to issue such guidance for all areas no later than September 4, 2019. Put simply, there has been no delay to these funds.
“Government agencies in the Virgin Islands will be tasked with handling hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds, an unprecedented task that will challenge the government’s very capacity to process such a large amount of funding. The increase in funding will be hundreds of times what is normally handled and a sufficient number of staff will be needed to properly monitor and evaluate grant applications while keeping pace with the administrative requirements to properly expend these much needed funds.
“The Office of Disaster Recovery and the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Agency must continue working to improve financial controls and procurement processes, monitor sub-recipients, assist with increased staffing, and provide other assistance needed to safeguard all federal disaster recovery funds. I am pleased that the Department of Interior is directly involved in capacity building in the Virgin Islands, so that the local government will be better prepared to draw-down recovery funds as expeditiously as possible.
“I hope that the territory will continue to improve its capacity and performance for the most orderly dispersal of recovery assistance to the people of the Virgin Islands.”