Disaster recovery, Medicaid funding among Governor Bryan’s priorities during Washington visit

by Nov 7, 2019United States Virgin Islands0 comments

The expansion of Medicaid and funding for the ongoing recovery effort was the focus of United States Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan (D)’s meetings on Capitol Hill Tuesday, as the Governor and key members of his senior staff met with US Virgin Islands Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D) and officials from the US Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HHS).

During their meeting, Tuesday morning Governor Bryan and Delegate Plaskett discussed proposed legislation to avert the Medicaid fiscal cliff and the potential expansion of Plaskett’s special visa waiver legislation.

According to Delegate Plaskett, the Territories Health Care Improvement Act proposes to grant a 100 percent federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) to the US Virgin Islands for fiscal year 2020. The bill also proposes an 83 percent FMAP for fiscal years 2021 through 2024 and 76 percent for fiscal year 2025.

Governor Bryan, who has for months lobbied Congress on this issue, also met with HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, Tuesday, where the Governor stressed the importance of the territory receiving the 100 percent FMAP with the agency head.

In September, Governor Bryan penned a letter signed by the governors of each US territory urging the US Congress to extend the temporary 100 percent FMAP granted to the US Virgin Islands and to provide the US territories with the same need-based Medicaid funding that is currently available to the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Governor Bryan said Tuesday that he remains optimistic the Congress will extend the 100 percent FMAP past the November 21 deadline.

Meeting with HUD

During his meeting on Tuesday morning with HUD Assistant Secretary David Woll Jr., Governor Bryan discussed the progress of critical recovery projects funded through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery CDBG-DR program.

Governor Bryan reiterated the need for HUD to expedite its completion of the grant agreement for tranche 2 of the CDBG-DR.

The Governor, in his discussion with Woll and the other HUD officials present, spoke to some of the recovery projects already underway and emphasized some of those projects approved in tranche 1 are also partly funded in tranche 2.

Governor Bryan cited an approved project to purchase four new generating units by the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) as an example of one of those projects.

The project, which has an approved cost of $90 million, calls for $45 million from tranche 1 and $45 million from tranche 2.

The Governor said Tuesday that HUD should not require the territory to spend the majority of the $243 million in tranche 1 before the agency completes the grant agreement to release the $779 million in tranche 2 when projects are being funded across the four tranches of CDBG-DR.

HUD approved an action plan for tranche 2 of the CDBG-DR submitted by the Government of the Virgin Islands in March 2019.

However, the availability of the $779 million in tranche 2 remains contingent on HUD completing the grant agreement.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Woll, before the end of Tuesday’s meeting, assured Governor Bryan that the completion of the grant agreement for tranche 2 of the CDBG-DR was a top priority for HUD.

Governor Bryan also met with Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Assistant Secretary Doug Domenech Tuesday and with House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D).