Amata and House colleagues arrive in the territory Sunday
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Aumua Amata, and colleagues from the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, which has oversight over the U.S. territories, will arrive in Pago Sunday on the first leg of a fact finding trip to the U.S. Pacific territories. They will overnight Sunday and Monday before departing for Saipan in the Western Pacific.
“For years I have had the goal of seeing American Samoa be a destination, not a simply a refueling stop for congressional delegations,” said Amata, who is beginning her third year in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Led by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), the Congressional Delegation (CODEL) will see first-hand how federal funds, which must be authorized by their committee, are being spent and become familiar with the territory's need for continued federal assistance, "as we strive to achieve self-sufficiency."
In addition to territories, Bishop's committee has legislative jurisdiction over national parks and maritime issues, and in that regard, will spend time in American Samoa's national park as well as visit the Star-Kist cannery, where they will be briefed on the problems facing American Samoa’s fishing industry.
"The Natural Resources Committee is the single most important congressional committee for American Samoa," said Aumua, who serves on the committee's Insular Affairs and Investigative panels. "I know Members will come away from here with a new appreciation for the challenges we face, and we will gain new allies as we move our legislative initiatives through the House,” continued Amata.
In the limited time they have, Aumua wants the group's main focus to be on the hospital, schools, and the cannery, which is the largest private employer on the island. "These are the areas in which we specifically need federal aid," said Amata. "Although I succeeded last year in convincing Congress to change the funding formula for elementary & secondary education in the territories, which will increase funding for American Samoa by 67%, we need the help of this committee to authorize funding to upgrade LBJ, maintain and upgrade our schools and improve our infrastructure,” continued the Congresswoman.
While on island, the CODEL also will meet with members of the local U.S. Army Reserve unit and their families to show their appreciation for their dedication and service to the Nation. American Samoa provides more members to the Armed Forces per capita than any other state or territory.
"I want to thank Chairman Bishop and the committee staff for their effort in arranging this important visit to American Samoa. I know that my colleagues will learn a great deal about the islands we call home, and I look forward to working with them when we return to Washington to advance our agenda with the federal government," said the Congresswoman. “It's important that we increase our efforts to address the inequities in the quality of life between the territory and the states that continue to exist and I believe that this trip will be a huge step in that direction,” concluded Amata.
The CODEL leaves for the Western Pacific on Tuesday when they will visit Guam and the Northern Marianas before returning to Washington February 25.