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Wednesday, June 7, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesSenators Hear from Groups Receiving Block Grants

Senators Hear from Groups Receiving Block Grants

Debra Benjamin, project director for the St. Croix Women's Coalition's Fisher Street Community Crisis Center, showing a photo of the group's headquarters under construction along with an artist's conception of the finished buildingSt. Croix non-profit organizations vying for a portion of about $1.76 million in federal Community Development Block Grant program funds awarded to the territory made their case before the Senate in Frederiksted Wednesday evening.
St. Thomas and St. John grantees spoke at a St. Thomas hearing Sept. 1.
The money – made available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – is generally allocated to projects geared toward preventing or eliminating slums and blight, addressing urgent needs or benefitting low-to-moderate income residents.
As every year, in January the V.I. Housing Finance Authority, which oversees the program, issued an invitation for proposals from government agencies and local non-profits. The authority received 65 proposals totaling $10.7 million this year, and local CDBG program staff recommended that 23 of those projects on the three islands be funded this year, said Julio Rhymer, the authority’s chief financial officer.
On top of the usual federal CDBG money, this year the Virgin Islands will receive another $1.8 million in CDBG-Recovery grants as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or stimulus package of 2009, Rhymer said.
“While the full range of CDBG eligible activities are also eligible for the CDBG-R, Congress clearly stated its intent that CDBG-R funds should primarily be invested in economic development, housing, infrastructure, and other public facilities activities that will quickly spur further economic investment, increase energy efficiency and job creation or retention," he said.
By local law, both the CDBG and CDBG-R money will be split evenly between the territory’s two districts, Rhymer said.
All the proposals are incorporated into a bill Gov. John deJongh Jr. submitted to the Legislature and now the Legislature is weighing in.
The authority proposes to use the $1.8 million in CDBG-R money to:
• Develop infrastructure on property in Estate Bonne Esperance on St. Croix intended to be used for affordable housing;
• Develop infrastructure on property in Estate Donoe on St. Thomas intended to be used for affordable housing and;
• Rehabilitate 60 low-income rental housing units, 34 on St. Croix and 26 on St. Thomas.
No votes were taken at Wednesday’s hearing. Present were Sens. Craig Barshinger, Louis Hill, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Samuel Sanes, Usie Richards and Michael Thurland. Absent were Sens. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Neville James, Wayne James, Shawn-Michael Malone, Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly, Patrick Sprauve, Celestino White and Alvin Williams.
Below are the individual regular CDBG grants for this year.

St. Croix:
• $283,589 to Women’s Coalition of St. Croix to complete construction of a two story building in Christiansted town to serve victims of crimes, especially domestic violence and sexual assault.
• $200,000 to V.I. Partners in Recovery to completely renovate their Estate Richmond building to provide at least 10 beds for substance abuse and mental health treatment;
• $26,250 to Holy Ghost Deliverance After-School program for tutoring homework help, computer skills, violin lessons to youngsters age five to 16;
• $10,000 to Garden School Reading Enhancement Program for after school, reading and summer programs;
• $10,000 to Bridges After-school and Mentoring program for tutorial and mentoring of children age five to 13 years;
• $13,500 to Bright Spark Mon Bijou After-School program;
• $10,000 to Eagles Nest men’s temporary housing for emergency housing and drug and alcohol counseling service;
• $20,000 to Helping Children Work after school program for an after school computer and tutorial program in Estate Grove Place;
• $17,000 to Ten Thousand Helpers’ agriculture and landscaping program to provide jobs and work training in landscaping, grounds maintenance and vegetable gardening for men staying at the Rainbow House emergency shelter for the homeless suffering from mental illness;
• $10,000 to the V.I. Housing Authority parent engagement program for education, outreach and training to help parents become better involved with their children’s academic progress.

St. Thomas and St. John:
• $225,928 to the Family Resource Center to complete rehabilitation of their counseling facility on Commandant Gade;
• $175,000 to Long Path Garden Association to complete construction of a playground, along with landscaping and a retaining wall at their community center on Storre Gronne Gade;
• $10,000 to the V.I. Resource Center for the Disabled for a computer and developmental skills program at the Julius Sprauve school on St. John for persons with developmental and physical disabilities;
• $15,000 to the V.I. Resource Center for the Disabled for a computer and developmental skills program at no. 75 Kronprindsens Gade;
• $19,000 to Wesley Methodist Church for after school tutorial, counseling and educational programs;
• $15,000 for the University of the Virgin Islands Upward Bound program for after school tutorial, homework help and SAT prep courses;
• $17,000 to St. Andrews Seek and Serve Outreach for after school programs and PSAT and SAT classes in Sugar Estate;
• $20,000 to We From Upstreet for after school programs at J. Antonio Jarvis Elementary;
• $40,000 to Helping Young People Excel for a mentorship program at Ivanne Eudora Kean High with cadet-type training and discipline for 15 kids aged seven to 17;
• $10,000 to the V.I. Housing Authority parent engagement program for education, outreach and training to help parents become better involved with their children’s academic progress.
Twenty percent or $351,669 of the total block grant award is set aside for the V.I. Housing Finance Authority to run the block grant program.

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