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Senator Kurt Vialet Sponsors Bill To Increase The Minimum Salary For Employees Of The Government

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Senator Kurt Vialet
Senator Kurt Vialet 

Senator Kurt Vialet has dedicated his legislative career to representing the sectors of our community that are least able to represent themselves; the elderly, children, and low income. Senator Vialet sponsored and co-drafted various legislations which concentrated on education, the economy, and healthcare. Among them is the initiative to grant full-time status to contract/part-time employees of the public sector; the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI), its Semi-Autonomous Agencies, and Independent Instrumentalities. This population now receives medical and retirement benefits that they would have otherwise not qualified for. 

The Senator, in the 34th Legislature is proposing an increase in minimum salary for public sector employees to $32,000 via Bill No. 34-0388. The current minimum salary for public employees is $27,040.00, an increase from $20,000 which was cosponsored by Senator Vialet in 2018. According to Jose George, Post Auditor of the Legislature of the Virgin Islands, there are about 971 employees that fall into this category and will cost the GVI an additional $4.3 million. 

Senator Vialet acknowledges that since the last minimum salary adjustment, the cost of living has significantly increased due to the rise in the price of commodities like groceries and utilities. The most current information presented by the Office of the Governor, Bureau of Economic Research, USVI Consumer Price Index reported that the “cost of living in the Territory is up 7.3% overall and food costs rose 20.7% between January 2020 and January 2021.” Additionally, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that “the average price of electricity paid by U.S. Virgin Islands residents was about 43 cents per kilowatt-hour in mid-2021, more than three times higher than the U.S. average power price of 14 cents.” The cost per kilowatt-hour in the Territory is now 56 cents but is presently being subsidized by the GVI to the tune of $4 million per month. 

“Businesses are able to pass on the cost of inflation to the consumer, however, the labor force continues to struggle to maintain a decent quality of life while adjusting to the fluctuations in the marketplace,” said Vialet.

Click here to read Bill No. 34-0388