As we begin this new week, there have been 59 people who have tested positive with COVID-19 in the U.S. territory.
During a news conference on Monday, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced the fourth fatality from the Coronavirus. He also gave updates on the financial help that is out there for the thousands of people struggling because of this pandemic.
A 67-year-old St. Croix woman is the fourth person in the Virgin Islands to pass away from COVID-19. According to the VI Department of Health, she died at home and the cause of her death was discovered after she died.
Currently, there are 59 people in the V.I. who have tested positive for Coronavirus, 51 have recovered and the DOH is tracking four active cases, as of Monday afternoon.
This fourth death is a grim reminder that talk about reopening the economy is a complicated conversation.
As far as when and how to reopen, Governor Bryan noted he is getting a lot of response from the public on what they believe is the right thing to do, he says he will be issuing a new executive order, which will include plans for a phased re-opening, some time this week.
Byran’s current executive order calls for people to stay at home until midnight on April 30th, “I will be issuing a new order that will describe phased opening approach to non-essential businesses and the guidelines that they will be subject to. Our intention is to begin reopening the local economy… the economy that Virgin Islanders’ enjoy in preparation for eventually returning access to the outside world,” said Bryan.
Whether that will be lifted or extended remains to be seen, as Bryan says his administration is weighing public health and safety, the economic condition, and people’s rights to come and go.
Governor Bryan also spoke about the YES (Your Energy Stimulus) Stimulus Program to help residents pay their Water and Power Authority bills. $15.5 Million has been approved for relieve to electrical bills, for active accounts.
While people remain at home because of the COVID-19 Pandemic stay at home order, these utilities are being used more often, which is meaning higher bills for many residents.
Under the YES Program, residential customers can expect to see a credit of $250 in their May billing cycle. Business accounts will receive a $500 credit. The credit will appear on WAPA bills with a line item which will read “YES Cares Act Credit.”
According to Governor Bryan’s office, the credit cannot be converted to cash, and if the credit is not fully used in the May power bill, the remaining amount will be applied to the following month’s bill.
“While this pandemic is impacting our economy, we recognize that our residents and small businesses also are struggling, and we wanted to be able to provide some kind of direct financial assistance to help the community as everyone struggles through these difficult times,” Governor Bryan said.
The YES program is backed by federal funds from the CARES Act Stimulus that Congress approved earlier in April.
Also on Monday, The U.S. Small Business Association resumed accepting applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Businesses interested in participating should apply as soon as possible.
As of Monday, 620 Virgin Islands businesses received SBA funding through the PPP loan, totally more than $62 Million.
Governor Bryan says as of Monday afternoon, there have been 1,595 unemployment checks issued, totaling more than $1,110,000.