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Urgent Update: Deadline for SNAP/CASH Program Documentation Submission Imminent

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The Department of Human Services (DHS) of the Virgin Islands is urgently reminding all participants of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Cash Assistance Program about the fast-approaching deadline for the submission of recertification applications, periodic reports, and other necessary documents. This submission is crucial for the distribution of benefits scheduled for December 1st.

Important Information for SNAP/CASH Recipients:

  1. Deadline Adherence: The DHS is emphasizing the criticality of adhering to the due dates mentioned in the documents received. Compliance with these dates is essential to ensure the continued receipt of benefits without interruption.
  2. Implications of Delayed Submission: Any delays in submitting the required documents can result in the suspension of benefits or, in more severe cases, the closure of cases. This would necessitate the initiation of a new application process to reestablish eligibility.
  3. Guidance for New Applicants: Individuals applying for the first time must complete their application packets thoroughly. This includes attaching all required document copies, and ensuring that the application is properly signed and dated.

Office Contact Details and Document Submission Methods:

  • St. Croix Office: Reachable at (340) 772-7100 Ext. 7159 or 7166. Submissions can be made in person at the office located at 41-B Mars Hill, Frederiksted, VI 00820, through the United States Postal Service (USPS), email at [email protected], via the office drop box, or by fax at (340) 772-9591.
  • St. Thomas and St. John Offices: Contactable at (340) 774-0930 Ext. 4303 or (340) 774-2399. Documents can be submitted in person or via USPS to 1303 Hospital Ground, St. Thomas, VI 00802, through email at [email protected], using the drop boxes located in St. Thomas and St. John, or by fax at (340) 777-5449.

Additional Assistance for Clients:

Clients can verify their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card balances by calling 1-866-884-2868 or by utilizing the EBT mobile application available at www.fisglobal.com/ebtedgemobile.

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USVI Community Pulse

Property Managers Face New Licensing Rules in Virgin Islands Real Estate Overhaul

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Significant changes are on the horizon for the Virgin Islands’ real estate industry, which has remained largely untouched since 1968. Senator Novelle Francis announced on Monday his intention to modernize the sector with the introduction of Bill 35-0193, aimed at closing legislative gaps that have allowed for financial exploitation to the detriment of the local community.

Senator Francis noted that the outdated laws have led to the industry being perceived as a “wild wild west where anything goes.” The proposed bill seeks to enhance consumer protection through new definitions, licensing requirements, continuing education mandates, and disclosure obligations, thereby bolstering the regulatory role of the Real Estate Commission.

A key feature of Bill 35-0193 is the new requirement for property managers to obtain a property management license. Laurent Alfred, chair of the Virgin Islands Real Estate Commission and a drafter of the bill, emphasized that property managers have long operated without adequate oversight, causing public confusion. Developing the new property manager exam is projected to cost around $92,000.

The legislation also lowers the minimum age for entering the industry from 21 to 18, encouraging youth participation as apprentices. The Department of Labour will support training these apprentices.

The bill introduces several licensing categories: Short Term Rental Licenses for owners of short-term rentals like Airbnbs, and an Apartment House License for owners of more than four long-term rental properties on the same land. Notably, property owners renting up to four long-term units will not require a license.

To ensure practitioners are familiar with the local community, a 90-day residency requirement for operating in the Virgin Islands’ real estate market is also included.

Industry leaders have praised the proposed changes. Dan Savaro, president of the Territorial Association of Realtors, and Ava Gail Bourdon, president and Principal Broker at RE/MAX St. Croix, both commended the bill for providing a solid regulatory framework for future generations. B.J. Harris, vice chair of the V.I. Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs Real Estate Commission, highlighted the importance of understanding fiduciary duties and accounting practices for property managers.

Despite general support, Carl Gotts, vice president of Vacation St. Croix, voiced opposition, particularly regarding association with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which recently settled a lawsuit for $418 million over anti-competitive practices. Gotts also raised concerns about the new license’s potential impact on collecting the 12.5% Virgin Islands hotel tax, though Alfred clarified that tax collection would remain unaffected by the regulation changes.

Senator Marise James suggested refining the bill’s language, while Senator Carla Joseph sought clarity on the implementation timelines for the new rules and educational requirements. Horace Graham, assistant commissioner of the DLCA, proposed a grace period for the educational component, estimating a reasonable timeframe of 90 to 180 days for compliance once the program is established.

Bill 35-0193 will next be reviewed by the Committee on Rules and Judiciary, alongside a companion bill to establish a property manager position on the Real Estate Commission.

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St. Croix Road Closure and Water Outage Scheduled for May 22

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ST. CROIX — The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) has announced a temporary road closure and water service interruption on St. Croix for Wednesday, May 22, due to critical maintenance work.

These disruptions are part of the ongoing Hannah’s Rest Waterline Rehabilitation project. The affected area will involve a two-lane closure on Queen Mary Highway, west of the Emancipation Drive intersection, from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Motorists are advised to use alternative routes to avoid delays. Traffic control measures, including flaggers, will be in place to assist with navigation.

Additionally, residents in the Smithfield, White Lady, White Bay, Stony Ground, Two Brothers, Mars Hill, and Wheel of Fortune areas will experience a water service interruption from approximately 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. WAPA has provided a detailed map indicating the impacted areas and suggested detours.

This temporary inconvenience is necessary to facilitate a tie-in operation by WAPA’s Water System Maintenance crews and their contractor, Marco St. Croix. WAPA appreciates the community’s patience and understanding during this period of essential maintenance aimed at improving the local water infrastructure.

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Urgent Search Underway for Missing St. Croix Man Known as “Smiley”

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The Virgin Islands Police Department’s Forensic/Identification Section of the Criminal Investigation Bureau has issued a critical missing person alert for Raymond Ward, 62, affectionately known as “Smiley.” Ward, originally from St. Kitts, was last seen by a family member on April 29, 2024, and has not been seen since.

Ward is described as a Black male with a slim build, standing 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing 147 pounds. He has distinctive brown and gray dreadlocks and a light complexion. When last seen, he was wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans. The details of his shoes are unknown.

He is known to frequent areas around Sion Farm, Sion Hill, Sion Farm Shop, and H&H Tire & Battery, as well as the Five Corners region.

Authorities urge anyone with information about Ward’s whereabouts to contact Officer T. Cox at the Wilbur Francis Command Police Station at 340-778-2211 or Officer M. Joseph at the Ancilmo Marshall Command Police Station at 340-773-2530. Information can also be provided to the 911 Emergency Call Center at 340-772-9111 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

The VIPD appeals to the community for assistance in ensuring Mr. Ward’s safe return to his family.

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