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Congresswoman Aumua Amata addressed the House Committee on Natural Resources, which conducted an oversight hearing on Tuesday, to examine the Department of the Interior’s Spending Priorities and the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Proposal.


“These budget hearings are essential, as they allow members the opportunity to voice some of their priorities regarding appropriations,” said Amata. “Being all too aware of the many shortfalls that our island faces, I am determined to make sure that we are heard, until American Samoa and our people are allotted the same resources and opportunities as their counterparts in the states.”


Following opening statements from the committee members, Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, presented her testimony regarding the Department’s budget priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. 


In her address to the committee, Amata said, “Madame Secretary, every year a little over $22 million is provided to American Samoa by the Office of Insular Affairs for the operations of the local government, judiciary, community college, and LBJ hospital… as you may know, this level of funding has not changed since its inception over twenty years ago, despite inflation, a growing population, and federally mandated wage hikes.


She continued, “On page 19 of the FY17 Budget Justifications for the OIA, it is noted that American Samoa, “does not have sufficient local revenues to fund the entire operating costs of its government. Also within that very section, it is noted that a secondary object of the funding program for American Samoa is to ‘promote self-sufficiency’. By maintaining the operations funding at a constant level, requiring American Samoa to absorb the costs of federally mandated wage hikes, and inflation, does not lend itself to self-sufficiency… actually quite the opposite.


“By maintaining a consistent funding level since its inception, the government of American Samoa has been forced to play “catch-up”, which has caused some real needs on the island.” continued the Congresswoman.


“While we have been shortchanged in the past, things are beginning to change, as evidenced by the dramatic increase to education funding in American Samoa that will begin in FY 2017. However, we still have much to do, and I am determined to see that it gets done,” said Amata. “I want our people to know that I will continue to be that voice of justice and fair-play, when it comes to the opportunities and resources our people are allocated. Things really are beginning to change, and I am excited and energized by the work we are doing to help our people,” she concluded.