How Territorial Status Affects Hurricane Relief Efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Residents of U.S. territories like the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico may feel their homelands are low-status states, so to speak. People who were born on one of these Caribbean islands are not allowed to vote for the President unless they move to one of the states. They have no representation in Congress even though they are U.S. citizens. When disaster strikes in the form of a hurricane, the country tends to be slow to assist. Local companies such as Cane Bay Partners of St. Croix step in and help the community rebuild.


The main reason these citizens can’t vote for a President is that their homelands are not part of the Electoral College. That’s about 4 million Americans who don’t have this Constitutional right, although they do have a say during the primaries. They don’t have any senators in the U.S. Congress, and their one House representative is a delegate who can only vote on a limited basis. Even though some of the residents are military veterans, they still do not have this right.


The United States has had territories all along but stopped making these areas states about 60 years ago. The last territory granted statehood was Hawaii in 1959.


One problem for the Virgin Islands in regard to its United States status is its small population of about 110,000 residents on the entire group of islands. In contrast, Puerto Rico has about 3.5 million residents, and that country also can feel largely ignored after natural disasters. The Virgin Islands population is only about one-fifth that of the least populated state, which is Wyoming, that has about 560,000 residents.

2017 Hurricanes

Weeks after the 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria hit, the island of St. Croix was still largely without electric power. Tourism accounts for about half of the island’s economy, and many resorts were destroyed not long before the winter tourism season.

With the use of one of the chief executive officer’s fishing boats, the St. Croix-based management consulting firm was able to bring much-needed supplies to the island. Bottled water, generators, items for babies, building tools, and first aid supplies were among the things made available.