Sen. Gittens Asks for VI SBA Disaster Loan Payments to Remain on Hold

Sen. Kenneth Gittens gavels the Senate into session Wednesday morning. Hours later, he'd been replaced as Senate president. (Photo by Barry Leerdam, Legislature of the Virgin Islands)
Sen. Kenneth Gittens gavels the Senate into session, (Photo by Barry Leerdam, Legislature of the Virgin Islands)

The 34th Legislature’s Liaison to the White House, Senator Kenneth L. Gittens, has requested that President Joe Biden extend the pause on payments for Virgin Islanders with Small Business Administration Disaster Loans given that the territory remains in a state of recovery from the devastating 2017 hurricane season.

Thousands of Virgin Islands home and business owners have active disaster loans with the SBA as a result of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Sen. Gittens said he made the request to the White House following President Biden’s announcement about continuing the deferment on federal student loans. He reminded the nation’s chief executive that the Virgin Islands was just “embarking on our slow return to normalcy” when faced with the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has been particularly devastating to the territory’s economy given our dependence on tourism.

“While we have done a pretty good job of addressing some impacts of Covid-19 here in the Virgin Islands, there is no way to account for the total loss of the cruise ship industry and the fact that many of our largest resorts remain closed,” Gittens said.

The senator pointed out that hurricanes Irma and Maria were two of the largest and strongest Atlantic storms in recorded history.

“Small businesses and homeowners remain deeply appreciative of the opportunity for federal aid; however, nearly all of this direct assistance came to our citizens in the form of SBA loans,” he wrote in his letter to President Biden.

“Given our already fragile economic state prior to the pandemic, we were truly grateful for the temporary reprieve granted by the SBA in terms of payment. Unfortunately, many homeowners are still struggling to rebuild and businesses to reopen. An opportunity to defer payments on these loans would grant Virgin Islanders the breathing room required during this most challenging period,” said Gittens.