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Bill to Grant $5,000 One-Time Payment to USVI Centenarians Advances in Senate

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A legislative amendment that would provide a $5,000 one-time grant to centenarians in the U.S. Virgin Islands, including $1,000 for burial expenses, has gained support from the Senate Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance. The committee voted in favor of Bill No. 35-0054 on Tuesday, which aims to modify the Centennial Living Treasures Award Program Fund.

Under the existing legislation, the Department of Human Services (DHS) commissioner is authorized to award a $4,000 grant to a centenarian on their 100th birthday and an additional $1,000 payment to the family upon the centenarian’s death for burial expenses. The proposed changes would consolidate the two payments into a single $5,000 grant, addressing disbursement challenges experienced by DHS.

DHS Commissioner Causey-Gomez acknowledged in her written testimony that there have been difficulties in providing the additional $1,000 to recipients due to various factors. Monique Farrell, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, added that the amendment would reduce the costs of maintaining a tracking system for centenarians’ birthdays and deaths, as well as the costs of processing the transactions for the second payment.

Since the bill’s passage in 2019, the legislature has allocated $25,000 annually for the past three years, totaling $115,000. Disbursements, however, only began in fiscal year 2022, amounting to $24,000. In fiscal year 2023, the appropriation is $40,000, with one disbursement of $4,000 made so far.

The Committee plans to amend the legislation in the 2024 budget to allow unspent funds to roll over, ensuring the money remains in the account until expended for its intended purpose. Furthermore, the legislature will need to modify how the funds are appropriated, as the current process directs the money to the DHS Miscellaneous Fund instead of the Centennial Living Treasures Award Fund.

To be eligible for the award, centenarians must have resided in the U.S. Virgin Islands for at least 30 years and be a resident when they turn 100 years old. All senators present voted in favor of the amendment but noted the absence of a DHS representative, as they had questions for the department.

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