St. Thomas — In a statement on Monday, U.S. Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett responded to reports that President Trump had been briefed on diverting emergency relief funds to begin construction on a border wall.
The report cites “three U.S. officials familiar with the briefing,” and details how President Trump was briefed on a plan that would dip into funding set aside by the Army Corps of Engineers for projects that included recovery from natural disasters in places like the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, California and other states and U.S. territories.
Plaskett and Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner, Jenniffer González announced that their offices would be introducing a joint letter to the Trump White House opposing any attempt to strip billions in unspent recovery monies from the budget of the Army Corps of Engineers.
The President has been weighing declaring a national emergency as the partial government shutdown hits its 25th day today. In a press conference last week, Plaskett identified programs and services that could be impacted by the shutdown if the federal government was not reopened soon.
In order to reallocate the funds from the Army Corps budget, Trump would need to declare a national emergency. In an interview that aired on Fox News on Thursday, the President said that if a deal with Congress could not be reached, “most likely I will do that. I would actually say I would.”
Federal law allows the president to divert funds in the case of a national emergency, a law that was enacted through the 1976 National Emergencies Act.
Congress has the power to override an emergency declaration by passing a resolution challenging the order. “I can’t imagine any reason why not because I’m allowed to do it,” Trump added, “The law is 100% on my side.”
“We are opposed to this approach, without question. These funds were approved by Congress and The White House specifically for the recovery, and it is simply improper for the President to now siphon off the funding to the wall–a 5th century solution to a modern day challenge”, Plaskett said Monday.
The Congresswoman detailed the programs affected include but are not limited to: the issuance of social security checks, taxpayer assistance, passport processing, park service operations, school lunch program and food stamp issuance, TSA operations at major airports, federal law enforcement operations, Coast Guard programs and initiatives, USDA programs and loan applications centers.
Since 2017, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa were struck by catastrophic tropical cyclones.
The Congresswoman’s office has also briefed Governor Albert Bryan Jr. and his transition team on steps her office and colleagues in Washington are taking to reopen the federal government.
“It is important that we know how the government shutdown is affecting all facets of the lives of our residents,” Plaskett said. Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett has invited Virgin Islanders affected by the shutdown to contact her office here.