USVI Governor Bryan discusses return to in-person learning, lifting of international travel ban in United States
During the Government House weekly press briefing, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. (D) discussed the United States Virgin Islands Department of Education’s return to in-person learning, which will be phased in beginning in January 2022, and President Biden’s (D) announcement this week that he is lifting the international travel ban and will begin allowing vaccinated visitors to come into the country.
The Governor said resuming in-person learning for students in fourth through 12th grades is vital for the educational needs of the territory’s students and is a key part of returning to normalcy from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have had a model that has proved successful in keeping our students, faculty, and staff safe for months now. In addition, we have available for children ages 5 and older the vaccine, which has also proven effective in dramatically reducing the chances of severe illness or death from COVID,” Governor Bryan said. “We need to move forward for the sake of our students and their educational needs. So I ask the parents out there to get vaccinated and vaccinate your children who are eligible to receive the vaccine and I am also asking our educators to do the same. This is the most effective form of protection there is against COVID-19.”
The Governor also pointed to President Biden’s removal of the international travel ban as the world taking a step toward normalcy and said the current rules to enter the US Virgin Islands, which have proven extremely effective, will remain as they are.
“The United States will now allow fully vaccinated travelers at airports and land borders, doing away with a COVID-19 restriction that dates back more than 20 months. The new rules will allow air travel from previously restricted countries if the traveler has proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test, like what we have in place here in the Territory with our USVI travel portal,” Governor Bryan said. “The current requirements to enter the USVI will remain in place for the foreseeable future. Those requirements include submitting through the USVI travel portal a negative PCR or Antigen test taken within 5 days of the date of your travel to the territory or uploading proof of vaccination within the USVI.”
8 percent wage repayment
As promised, the Bryan-Roach Administration began sending out checks and direct deposits this week of the 8 percent wage repayment from the 2011 VI Economic Stability Act.
“This action marks a significant departure from a period of extreme austerity in which our government was actively discussing budget cuts, furloughs, and payless paydays,” Governor Bryan said. “It demonstrates that the sound financial management of the Bryan-Roach Administration is paying dividends. This is especially evident when you consider the devastating economic impact of the 2017 hurricanes and the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The Governor thanked Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory (D) and the members of the 34th Legislature for shepherding through the legislation that makes the repayment of these wages possible.
The Governor also said that at the time of the wage cuts, many people could not imagine that the Government of the Virgin Islands would find itself in a position to restore the lost wages.
“We are especially pleased to be able to deliver on this promise at this time of year as families prepare for the holiday season. We know that the high cost of electricity, food, and the overall inflation we are experiencing creates extreme stress in our community,” Governor Bryan said. “We hope that this week’s payments will prove to be a timely stimulus, at least for a few households.
Residents can check the Division of Personnel website, and make sure their information in the Personnel database regarding the 8 percent repayment is correct. The website also contains instructions for the survivors of deceased government employees who are owed money to receive those funds.
The Governor also said the Administration is finalizing a proposal that could bring a permanent solution to the extreme financial distress the Government Employees’ Retirement System faces and bring a long-lasting benefit and relief to 17,000 beneficiaries.
“Very quietly we have been working with the Legislature on perhaps our greatest challenge as a government. In the coming months we will once again embark on a proposal that may be able to fix the GERS permanently,” Governor Bryan said. “Just like the 8%, we will be working together with our friends in the Legislature to bring about change in our community. We will need your confidence, support, and understanding to get it done.”
Governor Bryan traveling to Jacksonville, Dallas
The Governor said he will be traveling later this week, accompanied by Virgin Islands Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe, to Jacksonville, Florida, for meetings with the US Army Corps of Engineers about the dredging permits at three of the Territory’s harbors and to discuss flood mitigation for the guts in Estate La Grange on St. Croix and Savan on St. Thomas.
The Governor said that while he is stateside, he and Executive Director Dowe also will travel to Dallas, Texas, for meetings with officials at American Airlines to discuss additional airlift to the territory.
“As the country starts to reopen and allow for less restrictive international travel, we want to maintain our competitive edge in the tourism market,” Governor Bryan said. “As such, I am making the rounds in support of the Department of Tourism and the Port Authority.”