Working for Results: July 2020 Edition
A Message from the Senator
These past few months have been a challenging time for all of us in the US Virgin Islands since COVID-19. The spread of the virus required us to change the way we do things, and brought many of our activities to a screeching halt, requiring us to practice social distancing and forcing us to set aside our traditional Virgin Islands greetings of hugs.
Although we are living in challenging times, it is important for us leaders to stay in touch with our communities. This newsletter is a medium for you to get a bird’s eye view of what I have been up to for the past three months. My office held virtual office meetings to bring meaningful information to the community, and I continued to work on legislation aimed at improving the quality of life for Virgin Islanders.
Much has been threatened here on our beloved islands. Our way of life, our economy, educational system, health care and so much more has been tested, but as we navigate the threat of this virus, we must remain vigilant as a people. As leaders, we must find new ways to navigate the challenges we face. It requires all of us to be creative and innovative in our way of thinking as we look at our economy, education and healthcare system.
Let us continue to pray that in the very near future our lives will return to what it once was, and better. You can do your part to flatten the curve of this virus by following the CDC guidelines and the Governors’ direction.
I close with asking you for your continued support, prayers and vote as we approach this election season. My commitment to a better Virgin Islands remains unwavering despite the difficult times that are ahead. I am committed to be your voice. God bless You.
Now more than ever in the advent of COVID-19, there is a strong need to diversify our economy. Sen. Frett-Gregory has already started to have these discussions with the Economic Development Authority (EDA) to begin marketing initiatives around light manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies returning to the territory, which is aimed at diversifying and strengthening our economy.
Major Legislation Introduced
Six months into 2020, Sen. Frett-Gregory has already had much success, sponsoring major pieces of legislation that will begin to reform our education system, support local businesses and improve our quality of life. These bills have been carefully crafted to ensure they provide maximum value to our community, and will take full support from the Executive branch for successful execution. The following bills are currently moving through the Legislative process and Sen. Frett-Gregory is urging her colleagues to give a favorable vote.
WAPA Management Oversight Act (19-0551)- Establishes a review committee responsible for overseeing the Authority’s operations and finances to restructure as needed
The Economic Development Initiative of 2020 (20-1133)- Provides small business owners impacted by COVID-19 with a financial relief grant, requires the EDA to craft a targeted marketing campaign aimed at recruiting high-value companies to territory, and provide funding for the build-out of a food processing plant, among other provisions
School Facilities Maintenance Authority (33-0302)- Removing the responsibility of maintenance and construction from under the Commissioner of the Dept. of Education to allow for focus on student achievement. The Authority shall establish, acquire, construct, develop, improve, renovate, own, operate and manage all public schools and public educational facilities in the Territory
Career Tech (33-0267)- Strengthens career and technical education in the public high schools by providing students with the opportunity to become certified in their field of interest and by incentivizing businesses to train students
Digital Learning (20-1118)- Requires DOE to offer public school students the ability to fulfill required and elective courses of study via accessible digital classrooms, especially in the case of a natural disaster, pandemic, or similar state of emergency where learning is challenged. DOE will provide students engaged in digital learning with access to the devices needed to successfully complete courses
In her first year in office, Sen. Frett-Gregory successfully sponsored 20 pieces of legislation that have already begun to reshape the Territory. Here are a few highlights:
Act 8299- Declares the month of May as Virgin Islands Mental Health Awareness Month to raise public awareness and to reduce the stigma
Act 8271- Establishes a 180-day amnesty period for the waiver of penalties for payment of outstanding income taxes and the waiver of interest and penalties for payment of outstanding gross receipt taxes and real property taxes for all tax years up to tax year 2019
Resolution 1867- Petitions Congress to increase the cap on overall Medicaid funding so the Territory can strengthen its Medicaid Program to provide care to residents who are eligible and to become on par with the other states
Act 8249- Reenacts the Virgin Islands Tax Study Commission tasked with reviewing the current laws and tax structure for the purpose of initiating tax reform and maximizing revenue in a fair and impartial manner
Act No. 8270- Requires all K4-3rd grade public school educators in the territory be adequately trained in early childhood education and providing the funding to ensure their success
Act No. 8171- Provides up to $10M in funding to the Government Employees Retirement System to pay outstanding employer contributions and employee contributions
Chairing the Committee on Education & Workforce Development
As Chair of the Committee on Education and Workforce Development, Sen. Frett-Gregory held two (2) meetings in the second quarter of 2020 to discuss legislation and to receive updates from the Department of Education.
The VI Department of Education (DOE) was invited earlier this year to give an update on the future of public education in the Territory considering the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics discussed included promotional policy, distance learning, graduation and promotion alternatives, distribution of electronic and wireless devices, and the status of all federal funds. The discussion was lively, and all senators in attendance were heavily concerned about a myriad of issues, including the potential drop in student grades in the absence of a solid plan from the Department.
Sen. Frett-Gregory recently held a committee meeting on July 6 to hear Bill No. 33-0311 which adds cyber bullying and electronic harassment to the VI Code and her legislation, Bill No. 33-0267, which strengthens and expands career and technical education in the Territory allowing high school students to gain exposure in their desired vocational career field and obtain national qualifications. Sen. Frett-Gregory's bill was favorably voted to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further vetting with support from all colleagues in attendance.
In the coming weeks, the Committee on Education and Workforce Development will convene to hear updates from the Department of Education on what the new school year will look like for students in our public schools with the new health mandates in place due to COVID-19. The committee will also hear from the Department of Labor to give an update on the state of unemployment insurance and the federal pandemic unemployment insurance program.
In addition to being chair of the Education Committee, Sen. Frett-Gregory is active in all committees of which she is a member, and plays an integral role in the annual Legislative Budget hearings. Check out her outstanding attendance record for the past 18 months.
Community Involvement & Leadership
Although COVID-19 restricted basic social interactions, Sen. Frett-Gregory remains committed to supporting and connecting with you. On Thursday, April 23, the senator kicked off her "Staying in Touch" with DFG zoom town halls. Five (5) meetings were held so far, discussing a variety of topics with representatives from the Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Bureau, the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority, and the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority.
The community gained a wealth of information regarding the pandemic unemployment program from the Commissioner of the Department of Labor. The Director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue provided information regarding stimulus checks. The Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority spoke about homeownership opportunities and what resources the Authority offers, and the Economic Development Authority discussed entrepreneurship opportunities in the Territory.
Not one to slow down, even during a pandemic, Sen. Frett-Gregory gifted over 100 local senior residents with activity books in celebration of Older Americans Month in June.
These activity books were created to keep our seniors engaged and connected during COVID-19. This was made possible with assistance from Ms. Richardson at the Celestino A. White Senior Citizens Home, and Ms. Farrell at Yellow Cedar Assisted Living Residence.
On Saturday, June 6, Senator Frett-Gregory attended the Black Lives Matter Protest and Memorial to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters nationwide, and right here at home. Sen. Frett-Gregory understands that although the Territory is majority Black, like many other Caribbean islands, racism and prejudice exists here as well.
In fact, racism in the U.S. Virgin Islands was recently highlighted during an uproar on social media when a high-level attorney made inflammatory remarks regarding the BLM movement. Sen. Frett-Gregory will always fight for those whose voices have been silenced. Check out her thoughts on the issues in the press release below:
In between legislative budget hearings, committee meetings, zoom townhalls, and community engagement, Sen. Frett-Gregory still found time to chat with a number of Virgin Islanders on a variety of topics. Blogger and influencer, Donna Hendricks, recently interviewed the senator, publishing a two part interview found here showcasing Sen.Frett-Gregory's life on and off the Senate floor.
The senator also sat down with the Legislature's Media team to talk about what she's been up to this year, VI Crawl & Millennial Leaders United (MLU) to discuss topics like education, affordable housing, and energy with younger generations, and Chris George from the GIS Division in the Lt. Governor’s Office to discuss their Street Addressing Initiative, a project that will map the entire territory, giving virtually every neighborhood and road a name and address. The Legislature and VI Crawl interview will be published on Sen. Frett-Gregory's Facebook page within the coming days. Click here to take a look at her interview with Chris George.
Graduation season isn't over yet!
Sen. Frett-Gregory is proud of all graduates, and sent a personal congratulatory message to all schools in the St. Thomas/St. John district.
Taking it a step further, the senator also awarded three high school students, Ariana Richards, Jhamori Sargeant, and Elois Commodore, with the DFG Community Impact Foundation Scholarship. These three recipients exemplified hard work, determination and commitment during unprecedented times.
Congratulations to ALL graduates from the Virgin Islands, and to all Virgin Islanders graduating abroad!
Continuing the Results Movement
Sen. Frett-Gregory held her first food sale of the year on Saturday, July 11, on the Democratic Party Grounds. It was a curb-side pick up food sale to maximize safety, and the Senator is proud to say that everything sold out!
On the menu were delicious local delicacies like salmon balls, Caribbean-style rice and peas, passion fruit juice, and many others.
Thank you for your continued support throughout this journey with us! With you by our side, the Results Movement WILL continue. Be sure to vote #4 on August 1 for #ProvenResults
Get in Touch
Our office is always open to the entire Virgin Islands community to share concerns, ask questions, or pitch ideas that will positively impact our community. You can reach us right here on the website via "Get Involved" or you can:
Email us at email@example.com
Call us at 340-693-3686
The next "Working for Results" newsletter issue- October 2020