St. Thomas 𑁋 The massive legislation includes direct payments, an expansion of unemployment insurance, and loans for small businesses. Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett is expected to share details about a bipartisan deal that was struck between the White House and the U.S. Senate later today — particularly details on how the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package will affect residents living in the territory.
The bill has not been signed into law at the moment but Republican and Democratic senators said early Wednesday morning that they have reached a deal. “At last, we have a deal,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on the Senate floor shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday. “After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic.”
Plaskett announced in a statement Tuesday that Families receiving SNAP benefits and WIC in the territory have been included in recent legislation passed by the House of Representatives, the Senate, and signed into law by President Trump. “The Family First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) provides $1 billion in grant funding to help states and territories manage things like SNAP, student meals, seniors nutrition, and food banks; and additional federal funding for Medicaid,” Plaskett said in a Tuesday release. “Today I was informed that the Virgin Islands will receive a waiver until May 31, 2020.”
This is a bill that has already been passed and it is seperate from the new bill senators announced just before 2 a.m. Wednesday. It’s not clear as yet what the U.S. Virgin Islands and other U.S. territories will receive in the upcoming coronavirus stimulus package once President Trump signs it into law.
“The USDA has approved the Virgin Islands waiver requests to allow WIC program remote issuance of benefits. During COVID-19 response local agencies are closed or hours significantly disrupted and social distancing is practiced,” Plaskett said. “This important waiver allows the Virgin Islands to automatically load monthly benefits onto a WIC card. Remote issuance facilitates continued access to healthy foods and formula for enrolled children, women, mothers and babies during COVID-19 related disrupted services.”
According to the Virgin Islands Department of Health, the territory has 17 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of Sunday evening with no fatalities reported. Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has ordered all hotels to halt booking news guests for the next 30 days as the global pandemic continues to spread, threatening to overwhelm the nation’s healthcare system.
“No hotel, no timeshare or no Airbnb will be allowed to accept any new guests.” Governors around the country have begun taking aggressive measures to safeguard citizens after the federal government fumbled its response to the outbreak and confirmed cases of Covid-19 continue to skyrocket from state to state.
“As a Member of Congress, I recognize that Americans urgently need a coordinated, fully-funded, whole-of-government response to keep us safe from the widening coronavirus epidemic. Plaskett added. “Lives are at stake, and we must act now to put families first. I commend the House leadership on taking the lead on this issue and for making provisions so Americans living in the territories are included.”