AARP Virgin Islands is very concerned about what our 50+ population is paying for goods and services. It is quite possible that we have the highest cost of living under the U.S. flag. To answer this question AARP turned to the VI Department of Labor (DOL) to gather cost comparison statistics on the costs of commonly used products and services since the Department traditionally conducted studies on the prices of goods and services available to Virgin Islanders. However, we found out that due to a multitude of constraints, the Department no longer conducts this study on an annual basis.
AARP VI is very fortunate to have a retired DOL employee, Dave Barber, on our Executive Council who agreed to take on the task of conducting these surveys with the help and support of staff and volunteers. The process involved in collecting the data is no small task. To be sure that the survey work is being done correctly Barber suggested that AARP utilize the same process utilized in the past by the DOL called the ACCRA Cost of Living Index. According the ACCRA’s website, this index is the most reliable source of city-to-city comparisons of key consumer costs available anywhere, and it is recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau, US Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNN Money, and the President's Council of Economic Advisors.
In order to be in compliance with the ACCRA Cost of Living survey requirements, AARP surveyors needed to conduct a survey during specific weeks in January, April and July. The instrument used for these surveys specified the exact brand name products, size, and weight were to be surveyed. Additionally, the volunteers also had to follow strict rules on how to determine a suitable substitute when the specified product was not available or how to pro-rate the price when the product was not available in the correct size or amount.
AARP has already conducted the first two of these surveys for 2012 and has scheduled time to conduct the last survey for the year during the month of July. AARP staff and volunteers are no stranger to survey work.
A few years ago, AARP VI worked with the Department of Licensing on a different survey project. That project was known as the Food Basket and it compared prices of various prescription drugs. The new ACCRA survey compares the costs of VI goods and services with ten other U.S. areas which have characteristics in common with the Virgin Islands.
AARP expects to complete the last survey and then tabulate and analyze the data to determine how the VI compares with other jurisdictions. Once the analysis is completed in late September, territorial residents can review the results on the AARPVI website.