Answer Desk: Waiting on Unemployment Assistance Extension

Acting Labor Commissioner Averil George (File photo)
Acting Labor Commissioner Averil George (File photo)

A reader asked about the status of 26 more weeks of extended unemployment assistance announced earlier this month. The extended assistance has not yet been rolled out yet but could start as soon as “a couple of days,” time, according to the V.I. Department of Labor.

Congress approved the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 and President Donald Trump signed it into law this month. The Act retroactively extends unemployment benefits, making an additional $8 million in assistance available to approximately 1,340 Virgin Islanders.

Gov. Kenneth Mapp issued a statement taking partial credit for the extension, saying it was one of the many things he had requested on behalf of the territory.

Acting V.I. Labor Commissioner Averil George said the department would notify the public as soon as the program for extended disaster unemployment benefits commences. She urged all Virgin Islanders who think they may be eligible to stop by the DOL offices at that time for more information.

After that announcement, some Virgin Islanders who are potentially eligible for the extended assistance began asking when it was actually going to happen.

On Saturday, George said the extension is awaiting action by the U.S. Department of Labor.

“We cannot commence until USDOL does what needs to be done in their end so the funds can be released,” George said.

She said the U.S. Department of Labor informed the V.I. Labor Department the bill is “awaiting signature from the Secretary General,” and once that is completed they will issue a news release.

“We are being told that this can happen in a couple of days,” she said.