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ASG Treasurer offers alternative solutions to payroll deductions

In addition to discussing the negative impact on ASG for processing payroll deductions for its workforce, ASG Treasurer Dr. Falema’o ‘Phil’ Pili also shared some solutions to the dilemma with the House Budget and Appropriations Committee members during Tuesday’s hearing.


Pili was called before the committee to testify on a non-binding House resolution which calls on the governor to direct the Treasurer to resume payroll deductions for ASG employees so that they may better manage their personal finances, and provide a system that will assist in the collection efforts of creditors and businesses.


He told the committee that the American Samoa Government is not a collection agency, neither is it a bank to be carrying out payroll deductions, at a cost of $156,000 annually in taxpayer money. He also noted that payroll deductions have inadvertently enabled people to live beyond their means, which is one of the major contributors to the cycle of poverty.


Pili then offered some solutions, saying that there have been great advances over the past decade with bill paying options or payroll deductions through one’s financial institution, and these can be done virtually free for the consumer.


He also shared with lawmakers that with the new ASG payroll system to be implemented over the next few months, each ASG employee will receive a special bank card that can easily be used as a debit card to transact business and pay bills.


(Pili didn’t elaborate further on this new bank card, but it was revealed during a news conference earlier this month that Utah-based Zions Bank will be taking over the processing of ASG’s payroll. It was also revealed that the bank will issue to employees a VISA-branded debit card that can be used to pay bills and withdraw money from ATMs).


For vendors, Pili said there are multiple options. One example he gave was the use of ACH, or Automated Clearing House. He said it is a highly recommended way for businesses to collect payments, and the Treasury Department will be happy to assist any vendor who wishes more information about ACH provider services.


“There are services such as PayPal, as well,” he said, adding that most bill payments can be sent with checks through the mail with little inconvenience.


Additionally, many businesses set up regular payments in three ways: checking account deductions authorized by the consumer and transacted by the business; debit/credit cards can be used by vendors to transact payments on a designed date; and through the use of the bank’s bill payment services which are available on-line and can be accessed from the convenience of home.


Two Manu’a lawmakers reminded Pili that there are no banks in Manu’a, no debit or credit cards are able to be processed in Manu’a and there is no fiber optic cable to improve telecommunications in the island group in order to get adequate internet service.


“I am sure with some planning, ASG employees can find ways to meet their financial commitments through banks services, postal services or vendor payment options,” said Pili.


Responding to complaints that the termination of payroll deductions is an inconvenience to vendors, Pili said he understands, and is not ignorant of the inconvenience this will cause the business community, with perhaps a higher rate of delinquency on loan payments and other commitments.


But there are many solutions and options available today through technological advances to resolve and prevent delinquency and litigation, he said, adding that he is confident that the business community can arrive at solutions that will be satisfactory for all.


“In fact, this action should stimulate an updating of current financial practices and a hiring trend as more employees for debt collection are hired by the business community,” he said.