Government House has announced a new method of issuing Social Security stipend checks on St. Croix following a chaotic rollout of the program Wednesday that saw distribution suspended after large crowds gathered at the parking lot of the Viya building, which proved inadequate for the volume of clients.
On St. Thomas, hundreds of seniors were left to stand for ages in the hot sun in a line that snaked around the Schneider Regional Medical Center parking lot.
Checks on St. Croix will now be distributed starting Monday, alphabetically by last name, using the drive-through lanes at the Rudolph Schulterbrandt Agricultural Grounds in Estate Lower Love, according to a press release Government House issued Thursday morning. Walk-ups will also be accommodated at this location, it said.
Distribution will continue as scheduled on St. Thomas, including next week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the Schneider Regional Medical Center front parking lot. On St. John, the checks continue to be available at the island administrator’s office in Cruz Bay.
Government House Communications Director Richard Motta said Thursday afternoon that a drive-through option was not possible on St. Thomas due to a lack of facilities that could accommodate a smooth flow of traffic the way the fairground does on St. Croix.
“They just didn’t have that many options. A drive-through on St. Thomas would require a much bigger place that would allow for through-traffic,” said Motta.
“The problem St. Croix had was that the location was not adequate at all for the number of people who showed up,” he said, referring to the Viya building.
Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and Office of Management and Budget Director Jenifer O’Neal apologize for the inconveniences many experienced on Wednesday, have identified issues that needed to be corrected, and found a more accommodating location on St. Croix, the release stated.
The $500 payments are being issued to about 22,000 Social Security recipients in the territory who are seniors or disabled adults. The money is being made available from the American Rescue Plan Act State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, which allows for helping households respond to the negative economic impacts of the pandemic.
Government House announced the program during its weekly press briefing on Monday, originally planning the distribution for only two days, Wednesday and Thursday, leading to throngs of seniors queueing to get their funds within that narrow timeframe.
Motta said during the briefing that the checks could not be mailed because the government could not get the correct address list from the Social Security Administration.
Now, beginning Monday, St. Croix residents can receive their checks according to alphabetical breakdown by last name from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the fairgrounds.
Checks will be distributed alphabetically as follows:
A-F: Monday, Nov. 14
G-L: Tuesday, Nov. 15
M-R: Wednesday, Nov. 16
S-Z: Thursday, Nov. 17
Residents who are unable to pick up their checks on the day assigned to them alphabetically will be able to pick them up from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18 at the fairgrounds.
If necessary, manual distribution of checks will continue past Nov. 18, the release stated.
OMB also is encouraging residents in both districts to use the option to receive their Social Security stipends by mail.
To receive their stipends by mail, recipients can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “SSA Stipend” in the subject line and provide the following information:
- Last four digits of their Social Security number
- Phone number
- Correct address
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from the original to include comment from Government House.