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Amata explains how fed funding will cover ASG’s COVID-19 budget

Congresswoman Aumua Amata.
Timely information from the ASG will be helpful in “framing our requests” says Amata

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Direct-aid of almost $40 million for American Samoa under of one of the new federal laws dealing with coronavirus relief funding, will cover ASG’s COVID-19 proposed budget of $16.9 million, says Congresswoman Aumua Amata, who also explained that other coronavirus related relief money will benefit American Samoa.

The Congresswoman provided details on federal assistance to American Samoa in an Apr. 2nd response letter to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s Mar. 27th letter, which inquired about federal COVID-19 funding for American Samoa.

In her letter, Aumua acknowledged that she has also received and reviewed the governor’s letter to US President Donald Trump about ASG needs including the local government’s COVID-19 budget proposal and action plan which highlights American Samoa’s proposed budget request totaling $16.9 million.

As previously reported by Samoa News, the proposed budget plan provides a break down of spending for LBJ Medical Center and Health Department, along with Public Works — which is tasked with overseeing the construction and renovations of designated quarantine facilities.

“Congress has taken extraordinary action to help America defeat the coronavirus. In the span of one month we have passed three major bills to provide the resources to win this fight,” Aumua wrote and gave a brief summary of those legislative measures, already signed into federal law benefiting American Samoa.

For example, the US Congress first passed an $8.3 billion emergency funding package focused on testing, treatment, and telehealth. Two weeks later it passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which included extended sick and family leave for individuals forced to stay home as the nation tries to stop the spread. It also included a measure mandating free coronavirus testing.

On Mar. 27th Congress passed the largest relief package in American history for states and territories — the CARES Act — providing $2.2 trillion in small business grants, direct cash payments of $1200 to individuals and $500 per child in families, extended unemployment benefits, and $140 billion for hospitals and medical supply procurement

Regarding the governor’s question about the direct aid funding formula for American Samoa, Aumua explained that provision of the new federal law reserves $3 billion in the Coronavirus Relief Fund in the CARES Act funding package to all the territories and the District of Columbia on a population-based formula.

Furthermore, the US Secretary of Treasury is required to distribute these funds to State, Tribal and Territory governments within 30 days of the March 27 enactment date of the CARES Act.

“So by April 26th, ASG will receive from the [US] Treasury Secretary funds to cover Coronavirus Relief Funds of estimated $38- 40 million based on population estimates to be determined by the Treasury Secretary and to cover ASG virus related costs from Mar. 1st thru Dec. 31st, 2020 and additional FEMA funding for emergency protection equipment as well along with other CARES Act funds,” she explained.

“Your continued updates of information as needs develop will be helpful for future Congressional relief efforts,” she said, noting that timely information from the ASG will be helpful in “framing our requests going forward and will continue our partnership” with the ASG team in Pago Pago and Washington D.C “to get thru this health crisis and return to our wonderful way of life in American Samoa.”

She also shared the “good news” which is, Congress included direct aid of almost $40 million in the CARES Act which will arrive in April from the US Treasury Secretary “to cover the $16.9 million in your request and more with these initial funds as those costs are sure to grow.”

The governor was also informed of other COVID-19 relief funds — such as loans and programs for individuals and small businesses from the US Small Business Administration (].

Additionally, current grant funding sources are already being implemented — some of which have already been announced such as funds for coronavirus testing kits and equipment by the US Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs.

Furthermore, the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program will provide at least $600 per week for workers unemployed due to the health crisis for several months.

The US Labor Department is in the process of setting PUA up for States and Territories through their Regional offices []. And finally, Medicaid cost share has also increased over 6% to nearly 90% coverage.

“Other needs will certainly arise and I will continue to work with your Administration and Fono members to identify in the coming weeks all other local needs for potential future relief legislation to address this pandemic health emergency and its economic consequences to help our people as best we can during this critical time in our nation’s crisis,” she concluded.

See today’s Samoa News edition on other updates from Aumua on COVID-19 federal relief funds and you can download the full text of Amata's letter by clicking on the attachment below.