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$2M set to provide relief to 200 non-essential businesses impacted by COVID

Dept. of Commerce logo

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Commerce Department has budgeted $2 million for the Cash Assistance Program (CAP), to provide relief to non-essential businesses impacted by COVID-19 restrictions declared under the current COVID-19 Emergency Declaration, according to DOC documents submitted to ASG’s ARPA Oversight Office.

The emergency declaration and “business restrictions have severely impacted small businesses in the territory, especially since the implementation of Code Red and the closure of non-essential businesses,” Commerce director, Petti T. Matila wrote in an Apr. 4 cover letter to Oversight Office executive director, Keith Gebauer.

“Business owners of non-essential businesses have gone weeks now with no income and/or negative cash flow to support their operations,” said Matila in the letter that accompanied the CAP documents providing financial assistance for impacted businesses and other information.

Budget documents for this program show a total of $2 million — with $1.98 million allocated for the Cash Assistance up to $10,000 maximum per eligible business applicant — with the goal to assist over 200 impacted businesses — along with $20,000 for administration costs.

In a news release on Wednesday, Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga announced the establishment of the CAP for “impacted workers” and “impacted businesses due to current restrictions  — and the two programs are funded by the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and will cover the period from February 22 to Apr. 18. (See yesterday’s Samoa News edition for more information.)

For the impacted businesses, DOC will administer the program and provide details for the application process, eligibility criteria, and the distribution plan, the news release said.

DOC documents show that grants for impacted businesses will be awarded to cover allowable costs depending on the applicant’s needs to apply their cash assistance program request ranging between $500 to $10,000. And the applicant may select which form of assistance they need most, which should add up to no more than $10,000 per non-essential business establishment.

Allowable costs, outlined in the documents: include shipping costs, utilities — electricity & water, internet, phone bill, commercial rental/leases and insurance.

DOC said the CPA program will commence on Apr. 4 and will continue until such time that the program funds have been depleted, or until 180 days after the public health emergency closing or limiting operations of non-essential businesses has ended, whichever occurs first.

DOC documents state that eligible applicants must complete a CAP application with required supporting documentation. And all applications will be reviewed by the DOC Business Trade and Investments Division (BTID) with final approval by the Commerce director.

The documents also say that eligible businesses include those that were deemed non-essential under emergency declaration effective Feb. 22.  “Further consideration will be given to unlisted businesses, but may have been notified that they could not open due to lockdown,” it says and lists business establishments. For example, restaurants with in-person dining services; construction not related to essential function; commercial fishermen, commercial farmers, and Child Daycare facilities.

Eligible businesses must have been licensed to do business in American Samoa prior to Feb. 22. A valid current business license is required for commercial/profit entities and IRS 501 (c) 3 certificate is required for nonprofit organizations that administer a non-essential business type operation that’s listed in the Emergency Declaration.

Child Daycare business operators must submit verification from Human and Social Service (DHSS) Daycare Program to certify that no financial assistance was provided/granted to the daycare center and/or it was not eligible for funding from the DHSS Daycare Program.

According to DOC documents, commercial farmers and fishermen who apply are required to submit a current or valid license/permit issued by the Department of Agriculture (DOA) or the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR).

DOC will also accept a verification letter from the Department of Agriculture (commercial farmers) or the Department of Wildlife Resources (commercial fishermen) to verify their status as valid commercial farmers or fishermen.

The CAP documents show that maximum assistant for commercial farmers and fishermen is $1,000 per category covering supplies.

In accordance with ARPA requirements, public comments are currently being accepted through Apr. 14.  (More information on the CAP for impacted businesses on


For “impacted workers” the CAP program is administered by the Human Resources Department and Samoa News understands that $2.5 million is allocated for this program. A notice on the DHR Facebook page says that it will be laying out the floor plan and engagement dates publicly around April 20.