Am Samoa included in proposed benefits of American Families Plan
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The White House released yesterday fact sheets for individual states and territories — including American Samoa — that highlight the need for and impact of the investments proposed under the American Families Plan by US President Joe Biden.
And the proposal “is an investment in American Samoa’s children and families, because when American families do well, our nation thrives,” according to the American Samoa fact-sheet, which is similar to information for other US jurisdictions.
In a separate news release, the White House explained that the American Families Plan is a once-in-a-generation investment in the foundations of middle-class prosperity: education, health care, and child care. It will help families cover the basic expenses that so many struggle with now, lower health insurance premiums, and continue the American Rescue Plan’s historic reductions in child poverty.
Additionally, it will yield significant economic returns – boosting productivity and economic growth, supporting a larger, more productive, and healthier workforce on a sustained basis, and generating savings to states and the federal government.
Here’s a summary of highlights from American Samoa’s fact sheet:
• HIGHER EDUCATION — American Families Plan will provide at least two years of free community college to all students. It will also increase the maximum Pell Grant awards by approximately $1,400 to support students who rely on Pell for their education, and provide grants to increase college retention and completion.
In addition, the American Families Plan will provide support to minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and the students they serve across the country — such as the American Samoa Community College.
• UNIVERSAL PRE-SCHOOL — Pre-school is critical to ensuring that children start kindergarten with the skills and supports that set them up for success in school, according to the White House.
Today, “only 1,368 children in American Samoa are enrolled in a publicly- funded pre-school program,” the fact sheet said, noting that the American Families Plan “will provide access to free, high-quality pre-school to all 3 and 4-year-olds in American Samoa, boosting their educational outcomes and allowing more parents to go back to work”.
The American Families Plan will also ensure that all employees in funded pre-school programs are paid a $15 minimum wage and provide compensation and benefits comparable to kindergarten educators to those with similar qualifications.
• INVESTING IN TEACHERS — The American Families Plan will invest $9 billion in teachers “so we address teacher shortages, improve teacher preparation, recruit and develop more teachers of color, and leverage our veteran teachers to help support and train new teachers.”
Samoa News notes that there is no breakdown provided by the White House as to how much will be allocated for American Samoa from the $9 billion. Of note, there has been a long-standing issue of teacher shortage for local public schools, especially in hard to fill, positions, such as science and math.
• CHILD CARE — “Affordable child care is a barrier for many American Samoans,” the fact sheet states.
And the American Families Plan will enable low and middle-income families to pay no more than 7% of their income on high-quality childcare, generating lifetime benefits for children under 5 in American Samoa and helping working families make ends meet.
“We must also make sure child care is a source of good jobs for American Samoa,” the fact sheet said, adding that the American Families Plan will ensure a $15 minimum wage for early childhood educators and provide compensation and benefits comparable to kindergarten educators to those with similar qualifications.
• PAID LEAVE — Paid leave has been shown to reduce racial wealth gaps, improve child health, increase employee retention, and boost women’s workforce participation. These supports are especially critical now, with COVID-19 resulting in lost wages and a decline in economic activity.
“But in American Samoa and across the nation, more than 110 million workers lack access to paid family leave and nearly 84 million lack access to paid medical leave,” the fact sheet said.
The American Families Plan will create a national, comprehensive paid family and medical leave program to ensure workers receive partial wage replacement from the government to take time to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill loved one, deal with a loved one's military deployment, find safety from sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence, and heal from their own serious illness.
• CHILD NUTRITION — The American Families Plan will ensure that the nutritional needs of American Samoa’s children are met by expanding access to free school meals and providing students with resources to purchase food over the summer.
• TAX CUTS FOR AMERICAN SAMOA’S FAMILIES AND WORKERS — The American Families Plan will bolster financial security and spur economic growth in American Samoa by reducing taxes on the middle class and those striving to break into it.
According to the fact sheet the American Families Plan will extend through 2025 the American Rescue Plan’s Child Tax Credit (CTC) increases of $3,000 per child 6- years old and above and $3,600 per child under 6 years old.
It will also make the credit fully refundable so that low-income families can now receive the same credit as middle-income families.
American Samoa’s factsheet, along with all states and territories and other information is on the White House website [www.whitehouse.gov].