Government is working with private-sector partners to re-establish a fund that leaders say will now be used to solicit donations to “alleviate poverty and suffering” in the territory.

Last Thursday, the “BVI Resilience Fund” was launched with an online ceremony, which included a statement from Premier Andrew Fahie.

The fund was originally incorporated on Oct. 13, 2017 as the BVI Restoration Foundation, according to Mr. Fahie.

Intended to “provide disaster relief to the territory to help repair and rebuild critical infrastructure” subsequent to hurricanes Irma and Maria, the foundation was set up to solicit contributions from donors, he explained.

Meade Malone, a member of the foundation’s board of trustees, said in June 2018 that the organisation would help give entrepreneurs a leg up. The foundation — whose original website remains active — had raised $13,500 through crowdfunding by that time, according to Mr. Malone.

It remains unclear if all of that money was spent, but some small-business owners, like Kristin Frazer of Trefle Designs and Alexandra Durante of Eastern Caribbean Soap Company, received assistance, foundation representatives said.

Non-profit status

In his statement last Thursday, Mr. Fahie explained that the fund needed 501(c)(3) non-profit status in the United States to allow potential donations, and that such revenue sources are a key component of the Recovery and Development Agency’s strategy.

“For various reasons, the fund never became operational, and this may have contributed to the potential loss of interest, and consequently donations, as time lapsed,” he said. “Over two years have passed since the establishment of the BVI Restoration Fund.”

Mr. Fahie did not mention the donations the fund received and where the money went. He did, however, state that “people want to make charitable contributions” towards “worthy causes” such as the recently opened Nurse Iris O’Neal Medical Clinic in Virgin Gorda.

“It was realised that there were contributors who were willing to support [a fund] as long as they can see that the fund is properly managed and that there is transparency and accountability,” he said. “As such, in April 2020, Cabinet agreed to the renaming, re-purposing, new board compliment, and change of address of the BVI Restoration Fund.”

The purpose of the fund is now to prevent and alleviate “poverty and suffering of the inhabitants of the Virgin Islands through health, disaster relief, education and infrastructure development, temporary housing, and economic development initiatives,” the premier explained.

“This means that if you are from the United States and did not have a mechanism to donate as a tax write-off, you can do so to legally assist the Virgin Islands through this fund,” he added. “This is indeed a grand opportunity for US contributors to partner with the Virgin Islands, who will be the beneficiary.”

Partners

Mr. Fahie said attorney Mark Kaplan, of the New York-based firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP and Affiliates, is providing pro bono services to make sure the fund remains in compliance with applicable laws.

Board members include Mr. Malone as a director and president; Financial Secretary Glenroy Forbes as director and treasurer; Dr. Henry Jarecki, Doug Riegels and Claude Skelton-Cline as directors; and Najan Christopher as secretary.

The premier explained that the organisation “will operate independently from the government” and that filing and reporting to the government and US Internal Revenue Service “must be adhered to at all times.”

He called the fund an “effective tool” to assist with the recovery from the 2017 storms, the economic shock from Covid-19, and other needs in the territory.

He also thanked Mr. Forbes and Deputy Financial Secretary Jeremiah Frett for their work in “getting the fund operational and functional.”


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