Dear Editor,

Recent news articles and social media postings have mentioned the number of V.I. government offices closed due to COVID.

These closings are very disruptive to residents who need to file applications, have shipments released and pay bills. Sadly, the closings are necessary and the public recognizes this. We want to be safe from COVID, and we want our government employees to be safe, too. And we don’t want to be running around needlessly trying, but failing, to get our business needs addressed;

What can be done to reduce frustration, minimize the interruptions, and ensure safety? Obviously masks, social distancing, and especially vaccines are very useful tools. Reducing the number of personal contacts by developing alternate means of doing business is another vital tool.

A daily listing of what offices are closed would be helpful. Accurate and up-to-date notices could be published and broadcast in traditional forms of media, placed on government websites, and posted on social media sites and forums. Along with the notices of closings, the public should be informed of an alternate way to have their needs met.

Routine questions and some transactions can be handled by phone. Employees who are capable of providing such services should be given cell phones to work from home. Payments do not need to be made in person nor do applications need to be filed in person. We expect our children to learn remotely; why can’t we conduct other work remotely?

WAPA and various internet and cable providers have online payment systems. Property Tax can be paid online. Cars can be registered online and the owners receive their registration by mail. Groceries, office supplies, and hardware, to mention just a few, can be ordered online and completed orders delivered to our cars, homes, and businesses Service providers, stores, and banks have found ways to reduce in-person transactions.

And yet, despite the pandemic affecting so many of our actions and forcing businesses to reinvent themselves for almost a year and a half, we still have no system to make income tax or gross receipt payments online. Why is that? And when will such a system be put into place? The time for it to happen is long overdue.

— Helene Smollett, St. Thomas