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Amata testifies on Am Samoa’s funding concerns for the local fishing-based economy

Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata
Requests renewal of the Economic Development Credit
Source: Uifa’atali Amata’a Washington D.C. office press release

Washington, D.C. — Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata testified last week before key lawmakers of the Appropriations Committee to emphasize American Samoa’s appropriations situation, while expressing concern about the new challenges faced as a fishing-based economy.

“Tuna is to American Samoa, what the potato is to Idaho and the lobster is to Maine – without them our economies and identities would be drastically reduced,” Amata said to Committee Members representing those states.

“Now what would happen if the President declared that potato growing be outlawed or that lobsters couldn’t be caught in an area ‘bigger than Alaska and Colorado combined?’ Because that’s what the President bragged about yesterday (last week), declaring that over 777,000 acres of tuna fishing grounds be off limits for the U.S. fishing industry and that is canned at the American Samoa cannery.”

Amata continued, “In our case, 80 percent of our exports and port traffic revolve around the StarKist tuna operations that employ nearly 4,000 people in our territory – second only to the local government as an employer. Expanding the Pacific Remote Marine Island Monument without allowing for fishing management under the Magnuson Stevens Act will devastate our economy. (Last week), I sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Raimondo and Interior Secretary Haaland strongly opposing this expansion.”

Amata went on to request specific support, including renewal of the American Samoan Economic Development Credit, also known as the section 30a tax credit provision, to help maintain these jobs and economic activity in American Samoa. 

She also thanked the subcommittee for its prior support for funds for the architectural planning and design of a hospital expansion “to help improve and alleviate the poorly conditioned facilities we are struggling with,” she noted. “This is 60-year-old infrastructure that’s endured over 300 inches of tropical annual rainfall that has left us in state of disrepair well documented by the Army corps of Engineers since 2018.”

Amata specifically requested a new Appropriations boost for the Interior ASG Operations fund of $1 million. If an increase of any amount is enacted, it would be the seventh straight increase since 2017, after many years of level funding. The Operations amount is now larger by $5.4 million ($5,368,000) yearly since then, including increases of $1 million last year, and $2.5 million for hospital planning the prior year.

Her testimony was received on Member Day of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, under Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart. The full Appropriations Committee is led by Chairwoman Kay Granger of Texas.