Amata gives details on CARES Act's benefits for American Samoa
Washington, D.C. — On Sunday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata released a more thorough description of what American Samoa can expect from the CARES Act:
“Since the U.S. House of Representatives passed a third Coronavirus related bill 2 days ago and the President signed it into law many of you are wondering –what next—what does this mean to me or my business or my job that is gone? So, I am providing this special weekend update to get coronavirus crisis information and current Federal government response out as soon as possible, and to let you know help is on the way in a variety of monetary forms for both U.S. Citizens and Nationals, their businesses and local ASG government.
Although access to the House floor was limited Friday to reduce the risk of spreading the Coronavirus, I was able to speak on the House Floor as my colleagues were spread out in the Chamber and even the Gallery above, in order to fully support of the CARES Act bill and the many provisions I helped craft for American Samoa’s benefit as well as the territories in general. My Congressional colleagues and I in DC worked hard and long –and often remotely—yet still closely with both the other Territories Representatives and all our friends in both the House and Senate to pull together historic aid for the territories and made sure we were well included in the CARES Act aid package.
We know there is more work ahead in Congress to help the America but some more detailed summaries are below on how the new law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or “CARES” Act starts the healing process and helps American Samoa more specifically.
NEARLY $40 MILLION IN NEW DIRECT AID TO SUPPORT ASG
American Samoa will receive nearly $40 million of the non-state set aside funds in the direct aid portion for state and territory governments in the CARES ACT.
That particularly designated $3 billion funded section of the bill is divided among American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Marianas, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands based on population.
Myself and the other insular area Representatives collectively advocated the House and Senate leadership to make direct payments to local governments be included and that was a key goal achieved in the bill. American Samoa and other insular governments will receive about $700 per capita while the average for states is about $460 so on a per capita basis we did even better.
The CARES Act includes up to $153 million for kindergarten through high school and for colleges in the insular areas.
This money from Congress will help pay teacher and staff salaries in the weeks and months ahead in the hope of reopening soon. ASG/DOE and ASCC may also be able to use the money to invest in distance-learning education programs and other infrastructure needs.
Funding allocations for each insular area will be determined by the Secretary of Education based on the Secretary’s determination of need while working closely with the Governor’s Administration at DOE and ASCC to identify and determine those needs.
Aumua Amata gets American Samoa included in definition of “State” to make laid off workers in American Samoa eligible for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (“PUA”) Benefit of $600 per week for 4 months.
Workers in American Samoa, who lose their private sector or government jobs, including some non-profit and part-time workers, because of the coronavirus, will receive weekly unemployment checks based on eligibility. American Samoa workers will get a benefit equal to the national average unemployment compensation benefit—TBD by the Secretary of Labor but estimated at about $330 a week—plus an additional federal supplement of $600, so about $930 per week in total for 4 months of unemployment benefits.
This direct help for workers and their families was achieved with the direct help of the office of Senator Mike Crapo, Chairman of the powerful Senate Banking Committee. The Senator pressed to include the request I made along with Representatives Sablan of CNMI and San Nicholas of Guam to include us in these benefits even though our territories had no local unemployment system in place.
As Congress usually uses state unemployment systems to get checks to laid-off workers, the American Samoan Government will be able to administer these new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments with 100 percent federal funding upon reaching an agreement with the Secretary of Labor on how to administer them and to identify qualified individuals for eligibility as determined by the imminently forthcoming Department of Labor regulations.
$1200 Direct stimulus checks per qualifying adult and $500 per child for 2018 and 2019 Citizen or National taxfilers and social security recipients.
American Samoan taxpayers are eligible for the same “recovery rebate” being paid everywhere else in the United States whether citizen or national as long as you have a social security number and have filed in 2018 or 2019 no matter if W-2 or 1099 income.
So, file soon if you have not and update your mailing address or wire instructions ASAP! Individual taxpayers will receive up to $1,200 and joint filers up to $2,400, with an additional $500 per child. The rebate is based on 2018 or 2019 tax filings and phases out at annual incomes over $75,000.
FYI Social Security recipients, who did not file an income tax return, will also receive the credit automatically based on information in their 2019 Social Security Benefit Statement.
The federal government will cover the full cost of the recovery rebate and PUA benefits.
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has said the rebates will be delivered by the end of April.
The ASG is responsible for reaching agreement with the Treasury Secretary to determine qualifying individuals and administering how quickly rebates are processed and how quickly the money gets into our local economy.
I will continue to work with Governor Lolo and the President’s Administration especially Secretary of Treasury Mnuchin and Labor Secretary Scalia to make sure the $1,200 direct benefit and $600 weekly unemployment checks get out to those who need them as quickly as possible – help is on the way. I will be in touch in the coming days as regulations develop in the Federal Agencies to administer these and other relief programs thru our local American Samoan Government.
$375 BILLION IN SMALL BUSINESS RELIEF
As Vice Ranking Member on the House Small Business Committee, I made sure the Territories small businesses were included in The CARES Act programs that have a total of $375 billion in grants, low interest, some no interest and forgivable loans for businesses under 500 employees to weather the crisis.
The loan forgiveness program is for businesses that retain employees despite the downturn and can allow small business to pass thru the costs of labor, rent utilities and some debt service in certain circumstances. The Small Business Administration’s Emergency Economic Injury Grants program gets an infusion of cash to address demand caused by the coronavirus. A Small Business Debt Relief Program will help cover monthly loan payments for cash-strapped businesses.
And the CARES Act will provide free counseling through Small Business Development Centers to help businesses find the right federal program to meet their needs.
$200 Billion for Hospital, Health Care Worker, and Research Needs and Improvements
In addition to reducing the ASG Medicaid cost share from 17% to only 10.8% the Federal share will increase to pay from 83% to 89.2% of ASG Medicaid costs and provide an additional $4-plus million in benefits thru 2021. Also, the CARES Act makes $100 billion available to reimburse Medicare or Medicaid-enrolled suppliers and healthcare providers and for public hospitals to cover costs associated with the coronavirus. Funds can be used for:
• Building or construction of temporary structures
• Retrofitting facilities
• Leasing of properties
• Medical supplies and equipment including personal protective equipment
• Testing supplies
• Increased workforce and trainings
• Emergency operation centers
• Surge capacity
DOI/OIA Assistant Secretary has already released over $800,000 in grant funds to fund test kits for the territories. Further Guidance on applying for the HHS grants is forthcoming from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Community health centers nationwide get $1.32 billion in supplemental funding as well.
The National Health Service Corps, a program that incentivizes healthcare providers to practice in medically underserved communities such as ours, is extended at current funding levels through November 30, 2020.
Telehealth services are expanded so providers, including community health centers, may treat patients using e-visits and reduce the contact that spreads the coronavirus disease. And there is a substantial investment in research for treatments and vaccines that are already underway and promising new treatments forecast in the weeks and months ahead.
$55 MILLION FOR DOI/OIA GRANTS FOR AMERICAN SAMOA AND OTHER SMALL TERRITORIES.
Because the U.S. insular areas may have needs uniquely different than the rest of the Nation and have limited financial resources, Congress included at my colleagues and mine request an additional appropriation of $55 million for the Interior Department’s Assistance to Territories funds in the Cares Act.
Just this week, the Department of Interior Office of Insular Affairs Assistant Secretary Doug Domenech called me to announce an award of $858,924 from this account to the Pacific Island Health Officers Association.
The money will be used to purchase Coronavirus test kits for American Samoa, Guam, the Marianas, and the Freely Associated States
Thank you and God Bless all of you during this Easter Season. Keep the Faith and we will all get thru this together in the weeks and months ahead.
Click on VIDEOS to hear parts of Amata's speech.