As the V.I. Bureau of Internal Revenue continued Monday issuing 7,000 more COVID relief checks to individuals, officials said there could be more federal aid on the horizon and the Small Business Administration is poised to help local entrepreneurs with loans and technical support.
Speaking at a news briefing on Monday, Government House Communications Director Richard Motta Jr. said this week’s checks totaled $4.3 million, with 32,000 second-round relief checks issued overall. Of those, 26,000 went to regular income tax return filers, while 6,700 went to Social Security recipients.
Motta encouraged residents who haven’t yet filed a 2019 income tax return to do so before March 15 in order to be eligible for a relief payment. Residents who do not file taxes can file a 1040 form and put $1 on the interest line. For questions, residents can call the bureau’s tax hotline at 340-714-9325.
Motta said more COVID relief funds could be coming to the territory by way of the federal American Rescue Plan that is making its way through Congress. The bill has been approved by both houses of Congress and is now in the final stages of approval before being sent for President Joe Biden’s signature.
The bill includes another round of payments and other federal assistance measures and totals $1.9 trillion.
“In his most recent conversations with the senators and senior Senate staffers shaping the American Rescue Plan Act, Gov. [Albert] Bryan [Jr.] has emphasized the importance of ensuring an equitable allocation of financial assistance and the need to address the ongoing loss of tourism revenues as we seek to rebuild,” Motta said. “As a result of those lobbying efforts, the Senate version of the American Rescue Plan addresses the needs of the territory in the ways we had hoped, including preserving an equitable share of revenues and including upfront payments to reimburse our Treasury for making tax payments to our citizens.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Small Business Administration is ready now to help local entrepreneurs rebuild or grow their businesses with Paycheck Protection Loans, though SBA Senior Area Manager Wayne Huddleston on Monday encouraged residents to apply as soon as possible.
The Paycheck Protection Program is a forgivable loan program that keeps workers on the payroll and connected to their benefits. Loan proceeds can be used for eligible payroll costs and non-payroll costs, such as commercial rent, utilities, mortgage interest and COVID-19 worker protection costs.
“The PPP has made a difference in the Virgins Islands. Since the program began last year, over 2,360 small businesses have been approved for over $158.2 million here in the Virgin Islands,” Huddleston said. “This relief to hard-hit small businesses has allowed them to rehire and retain workers, safely reopen and deliver the essential goods and services that our community depends on.”
Only three weeks remain before the PPP closes, and businesses can contact any of the territory’s five major lenders – or access hundreds of smaller lenders nationwide – to get more information or apply, Huddleston said.
USSBA is also offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $150,000 each at interest rates of 3.75 percent for small businesses or 2.75 percent for private nonprofits, Huddleston said. The loans can be paid back over 30 years, and as of mid-February, 1,783 applicants in the territory have received a collective $96 million. To begin an application, visit www.sba.gov.
Technical support for V.I. businesses can be found at the V.I. Small Business Development Center, with staffers available at 340-693-1694 on St. Thomas-St. John and 340-692-4294 on St. Croix.
Editor’s note: The maximum amount of Economic Injury Disaster Loans has been amended to the correct amount of $150,000.