Staffing at Labor a “Challenge”

Sen. Kurt Vialet chairs the Committee on Finance on July 13. (Photo courtesy of the Virgin Islands Legislature)

Lawmakers on the Finance Committee questioned testifiers Tuesday about the Labor Department’s $7.46 million request for the next spending year.

Labor Commissioner Gary Molloy spoke about staffing at the agency and the revenue sources that fund those. He updated the committee on apprenticeship and training programs his agency oversees. Molloy also told the committee about the amount of unemployment payouts made over the current year and activities within the hearing and appeals division.

The commissioner also pegged the unemployment rate in the Virgin Islands at 6.8 percent.

Senators questioned whether Labor had enough staffing to carry out all of its responsibilities. Sen. Kurt Vialet, the committee chairman, asked how many positions had shifted from federal to local funding. Sen. Novelle Francis asked Molloy how Labor could help the local government fill hundreds of vacancies it currently has.

Molloy called filling some of those positions “a challenge.”

“We’re getting a lot of applicants that are either overqualified or underqualified,” he said.

Officials from the Bureau of Information Technology also appeared before the committee Tuesday. Director Rupert Ross took questions about the agency’s request of $12.65 million for the new spending year. That funding would cover operational costs, including salaries, benefits, utilities, equipment and supplies.

Ross also discussed the bureau’s goals for the coming year, including a comprehensive Digital Transformation Strategy. If successfully carried out it will improve the delivery of services from all agencies in government as well as benefiting the public that relies on those services

Tuesday’s hearings of the Finance Committee took place in the Fritz Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room on St. Croix, with in-person and virtual participation from testifiers.