Territory to Receive $385,000 in Federal Grants

After a far-reaching discussion Tuesday with Interior Department officials, Delegate Donna M. Christensen announced the territory will receive $385,033 in federal grants to help with hemodialysis, nursing training and coral reefs.

“The health of our people and our natural environment are of the utmost concern and your continued support is appreciated,” Christensen told Interior Department Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Anthony Babauta at the meeting.

Gov. John deJongh Jr. also chimed in with a Wednesday press release on the subject.

“Assistant Secretary Babauta has been a tremendous advocate and supporter of our programs, and there is no doubt that this release of funds is due to his commitment to our efforts in health care and the opportunities provided to us to further expand our research in the marine field,” deJongh said.

Roy L. Schneider Regional Medical Center will get two grants. They include $51,033 for an upgrade of its hemodialysis unit. This will fund the hiring of a consultant to train the staff in the correct operating procedures needed for patients with end-stage renal disease. Additionally, the medical center will receive $45,000 for Nursing Boot Camp Training. This will fund 30 nursing staff managers to participate in the program, which is designed to improve managers’ leadership skills, as well as in budgeting, project management and policy analysis.

V.I. Marine Research and Education Center received a coral reef award of $289,000. Located at Salt River on St. Croix, the center is a joint project of the National Park Service, the Office of Insular Affairs and a consortium of universities including the University of the Virgin Islands. It is known collectively as the Joint Institute for Caribbean Marine Studies.

Christensen, her fellow territorial delegates and governors met at the annual Interagency Group on Insular Affairs. The group heard presentations from the departments of Commerce, Energy, Education, Homeland Security, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services. Those at the meeting questioned their representatives on a variety of federal funding and support issues.

After a Commerce Department report on the huge trade advantage the U.S. Virgin Islands has in comparison to the other territories, mostly due to oil exports, Christensen asked for further discussions on its effects on the territory’s gross domestic product data. No date was set for the discussions.

She questioned Education Department officials on the reason the territories are excluded from innovation programs such as Race to the Top and Promise Neighborhoods. The officials promised to research the reasons and provide a complete answer.

Energy officials reported on the progress of energy stimulus spending and the Energy Development in Island Nations project that looks at which renewables would be most beneficial to the future of the island territories. Christensen was told by Energy officials after questioning that they are collaborating with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that their energy goals to reduce the use of fossil fuels are moving in the same direction.

Census officials from the Commerce told the group that at Christensen’s request, they were working on a community survey for the territories, which would give much-needed data for planning and federal funding.

Christensen also thanked Health and Human Services officials for working with the territories in the implementation of health care reform and ensuring their inclusion in consumer provisions and the insurance exchange, as well as for working to completely lift the cap on Medicaid and change the match that territorial governments should provide.

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