US Territories’ February 5-11, 2018 political week in tweets

by | Feb 12, 2018 | Political Week in Tweets | Comments

FEMA Contracts Produce Less Meals for Puerto Rico than Promised

Post-Maria, Puerto Rico has relied heavily on aid dispatched by FEMA. FEMA contracted meals from Tribute Contracting LLC, a company with no background in large-scale disaster relief and a history of cancelled contracts, awarding the company $156 million to fill millions of orders. Tribute subcontracted a couple of businesses, but only delivered 50,000 meals by the time 18.5 million meals were expected in Puerto Rico. Tribute’s meals had been packages apart from their heating pouches. FEMA requires that meals be “self-heating,” so they cancelled their agreement with Tribute. Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have issued a subpoena to acquire all documents relating to the agreement from FEMA. This is not the first broken agreement of its kind; lawmakers worry FEMA is not preemptively hiring contractors before natural disasters occur, leading to multimillion dollar contracts being awarded to companies that aren’t equipped to meet their end of the agreement. The owner and sole employee of Tribute told the New York Times that FEMA should have contracted with someone else, but “they were trying to fill the orders as best they could” in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

 

Northern Marianas Islands US Workforce Act lauded at Senate Hearing

Senator Lisa Murkowski and Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan brought the Marianas US Workforce bill before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on February 6, a bill created to incentivize the hiring of US workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Island. Presented with support for the Act by Marianas constituents and legislators, the panel was moved to support the bill as it progresses through the system. “The Workforce Act extends the current transition period for 10 years, to 2029, and resets the cap on Commonwealth-Only Transitional Worker permits to 13,000,” as well as provides safeguards protecting US workers from discriminatory hiring practices.

 

FTC Neglects Increased Gas Prices in Guam

Gas prices in Guam have increased by more than 30 cents/gallon this past month due to Guam’s three gas providers competitively raising prices. When asked to investigate, the Federal Trade Commission declined looking into the inflation further seemingly because of the islands small size, stating that the “nature and amount of consumer injury at issue [as well as] the number of consumers affected” did not warrant further investigation.

 

Guam Schools Face More Budget Cuts

This fiscal year, the Guam Department of Education (GDE) will have a $19.6 deficit. Addressing this, Superintendent Jon Fernandez announced the commonwealth is facing school closures and consolidations, as well as teacher transfers and  reduced work hours. Over the next five years, Guam’s legislators plan to increase the business privilege tax by one half of a percent, which should generate $150 million for the Education Department over the next five years, among other measures. Maria Gutierrez stated that the GDE has survived cuts in the past and “should be able to survive this as well.

 

Power Restored in the US Virgin Islands

Only 3% of WAPA customers on the Virgin Islands remain without power, according to the FEMA Federal COordinating Officer William Vogel. After hurricanes Irma and Maria, WAPA resumed billing its customers on December 5; all late fees occurring in the past few months have been waived and payment options are available and implemented on a case-by-case basis.

 

US Virgin Islands May Receive Fewer Loans than Expected

The US Virgin islands have received an $85 million loan from FEMA since Hurricane Maria. An additional $211 million in loans was announced in November; however, Public Finance Authority Director Valdamier Collens, says their approval is uncertain. The bulk of the loans are based on the islands first-lien status — in other words, the islands must be established as the highest debt priority in case of default to receive the loans. Even if the entirety of the loans are approved — $299 million total — the Virgin Islands will still face a budget shortfall of more than $200 million.

 

American Samoa Stymies Landfill Problem

A landfill on the main island of the American Samoa, Tutuila, had a two year expiration date. Struggling to find a new place for a landfill, the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) has begun recompacting the rubbish, lengthening the landfills life by 15 years. Locals say the landfill looks and smells better. ASPA also cuts down on waste by converting garbage to diesel fuel.