USVI Governor Pushes for Equal Treatment of Territories During Congressional Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Governors from the U.S. territories including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were in Washington D.C., giving Congress an update on our economic and domestic status recovering from the pandemic and natural disasters. Governors also took the time to push for equal treatment for the territories.  

“The territories make valuable contributions to our nation and we want to recognize each territory is an integral part of the United States,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D- WV).   

In a hearing with U.S. Senators, governors from each territory outline their progress in bouncing back from natural disasters and the pandemic. 

“Our government’s debt reconstruction has been approved, the rebuilding from the devastation loss by the hurricanes and earthquakes is underway,” said Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi. “2022 will be a key year in reconstruction with thousands of projects for schools, housing, roads and bridges.” 

“With the help of Congress and this committee we’ve endured the worst of the pandemic,” said U.S.V.I governor Albert Bryan, Jr. “Tourism sector is nearly one third of our economy is thriving again, our revenues are up and our debt burden is down.” 

But governors did not hold back on issues they’re facing. They told Senators even though they’re U.S. citizens, the territories are not given the same treatment from the federal government nor congress.   

“For too long the Americans living in the insulate areas have treated us as foreign or something less than citizens of the soil,” said Bryan. “To cite a few examples, a disabled American is entitled to receive SSI [social security income], if she moves to the Virgin Islands, she loses it. Medicaid funding to the territories has systemically lacked funding behind poor states and under the tax law investments made by US investors in the Virgin Islands are treated as investments in a foreign country.” 

Governors said the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan beefed up funding and expanded Medicaid which brought relief to the territories, but it’s only temporary. They’re demanding the same benefits as citizens on the mainland.   

“There is no question congress has the authority and I would argue the moral obligation to treat all Americans the same,” said Bryan. “Citizenship is not geographic.”  

And while the governor from Puerto Rico was at the Capitol, he made another pitch for statehood.   

”Puerto Rico will remain hindered until our century long status question is resolved,” said Pierluisi. “The people of Puerto Rico voted and chose permanent union with the United States through statehood as their path forward.”