Under existing law, upon a person’s 100th birthday, the commissioner of the Department of Human Services awards the Centennial Treasures Award of $4,000 to the recipient and upon the death of the centenarian, another $1,000 is awarded towards the recipient’s burial. Sen. Dwayne DeGraff sought to amend this legislation and proposed it to the Senate at Tuesday’s Committee on Budget, Appropriation, and Finance hearing.
Bill No 35-0054 amends the Centennial Treasures Award statute to provide for a single $5,000 award payment upon the centenarian’s 100th birthday.
Kimberly Causey-Gomez’s, commissioner of the Department of Human Services, written testimony stated, “in the past three years, DHS has had the privilege of providing thirty-two residents with the Centennial Living Treasures award. The FY23 appropriation to DHS was $40,000 and to date, we have granted $28,000 to seven Centenarians.”
DeGraff stated he held conversations with Causey-Gomez to draft the legislation after she expressed the difficulty of being able to provide the additional $1,000 to recipients and that DHS sometimes does not get notified in a timely manner of the passing of a recipient or when the recipient passed while off-island.
Monique Farrell, deputy director of V.I. Office of Management and Budget, said, “This amendment does not have any tangible financial implications, in that the total expenditure is $5,000 whether in a lump sum payment or in two separate payments. Awarding a lump sum grant reduces the potential for inadvertently missing the second payment and having a negative impact on the family of the centenarian, as well as on the reputation of the Government of the Virgin Islands.”
Senators collectively agreed that several amendments are to be made to protect the recipients to ensure the money is also allotted towards their burial as the legislation intends.
Despite the absence of DHS, Bill No 34-0054 was forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration with a total vote of 6 yays from committee members, excluding the absence of Sen. Ray Fonseca.
Also moving to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary was Bill No. 35-0026, which was proposed by chair Donna Frett Gregory.
The bill amends the V.I. Code to have insurers become members of a Federal Home Loan Bank and matters relating thereto. The measure seeks to provide advances to insurance company members.
Alexis Sornoza, senior business development officer for the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York (FHLBNY), stated some of the pros of the bill include establishing a process for FHLBNY to act as a resource in rehabilitating an insolvent insurance company. FHLBNY provides low-cost liquidity to financially troubled insurance companies, and FHLBNY will act as a regulator of domiciled and troubled insurance companies.
This amendment will help the FHLBNY recruit insurance company prospects in the USVI. It will also mitigate the need for more burdensome collateral terms, thereby allowing for increased liquidity support for both healthy and troubled USVI-based insurance companies.
Attorney Suzette Richards, Legal Counsel, appearing on behalf of attorney Glendina Matthew, interim director of the Division of Banking, Insurance and Financial Regulation, within the Office of Lieutenant Governor, stated, “this legislation today will hopefully also lead to insurance companies that are domiciled in the Territory becoming members of the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) of New York, because currently, no insurer that is domiciled in the Territory, is a member.”
“We are in a hurricane belt, and the insurance companies can be insolvent. This legislation will help to promote solvency throughout the United States Virgin Islands,” said Frett-Gregory
Sens. Donna Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Samuel Carrion, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Ray Fonseca and Javan E. James Sr., Marise James, Milton Potter, Diane Capehart, Kenneth L. Gittens were present.