In response to the closure of the HOVENSA oil refinery, the United States Virgin Islands single largest private employer, the Territory’s Delagate to Congresss, Donna Christensen, is pursuing an Economic Disaster Declaration by President Obama.
“I know that is what the car industry got, and while this is on a smaller scale, for our territory, with its 110,000 population to lose over 2,000 jobs and its main supplier of energy, it is an economic disaster,” she said in a meeting with Department of Commerce officials this past week.
John Fernandez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for the Economic Development Administration, said that access to the Obama Administration’s programming would be tantamount to a declaration, but Christensen said she would pursue the idea further.
The discussions came at the annual meeting of the Interagency Group on Insular Affairs in Washington, where territorial represenatives in the United States Congress and Governor from the four United States territories congregate.
“The territories are extremely important to the United States and to the President,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. “They are of strategic importance and we have a major stake in making sure that they are strong.”
The Department of the Interior also announced several grants for the United States Virgin Islands at the meeting this past week, led by a $1.02 million technical assistance grant for the Main Street Enhancement Project for Downtown Charlotte Amalie.