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ARPA funding to be used to bring public buildings into CDC compliance

Keith Gebauer
EOB cited as “good example” of building needing major renovations

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The ASG Oversight Office for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) last week released the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compliance requirements and administering proposal for all public buildings — with a funding allocation of $12 million from the territory’s ARPA funding.

The Oversight Office is the designated ASG office to administer the public buildings CDC compliance requirements in accordance with all requirements set forth in the ARPA guidelines, the office’s executive director Keith Gebauer said in a news release.

Gebauer publicly released the “COVID-19 Be Safe Initiative” proposal and requirement documents, which states in part that the timeline to implement the project is six to 8 months.

An overview of the project states that the CDC has issued requirements and guidelines for safe workplaces and public buildings which the “territory currently is not able to meet and comply with.”

It notes that ASG plays a major role in ensuring the protection and safeguarding of the health and lives of its people. “ASG workers are exposed to health hazards and poor conditions of these public facilities on a regular basis,” the documents said.

The general public is also an impacted part of the population exposed to these health hazards, according to the documents noting that American Samoa is presently non-compliant with CDC standards and guidelines for public facilities.

The documents cite the A.P. Lutali Executive Office Building (EOB) in Utulei as a good example of a public building that needs major renovations and improvements.

Constructed in 1991, the building has long standing issues due to poor maintenance and environmental factors. These issues are considered health hazards that pose high risk to ASG workers and the general public, the document said.

They include on-going problems with rodent infestation, poor ventilation systems, water leakage, mold growth, poor indoor air quality, among others. There is high density in office spaces due to limited available space for expansion, which create challenges to meet CDC standards and recommendations.

The restroom facilities lack proper ventilation with either no windows or fans. There are no rooms or areas to accommodate for isolating an ASG worker or customer who may be suspected of or may have contracted COVID-19.

The EOB building does not have a kitchen, break room or adequate washing facilities. The structure is CDC non-compliant and needs immediate improvements and renovations to meet federal standards.

The Oversight Office said the COVID-19 public health emergency has highlighted major needs and issues in American Samoa that have been neglected for years due to limited resources.

In addition, the pandemic has led to new compliance requirements for congregate settings such as workplaces and public facilities to prevent and mitigate COVID-19.

 Many public buildings and facilities in the territory are not in compliance with CDC standards. This creates a major challenge for the territory in addition to resolving pre-existing issues exacerbated by the pandemic.

The poor conditions of public facilities poses a health hazard for ASG workers and the general public caused by a poor ventilation system, rodent infestation, water leakage and more.

“The CDC highly recommends corrective actions and improvements for a safe and healthy environment,” documents said. “ARPA funds allocated for this project is a necessary investment to protect and safeguard the health and lives of the American Samoa people and support efforts and measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

The Oversight Office held an ASG department workshop last week Friday and the next one is Jan. 26.

Documents and more information on this project — including the required public hearings — can be found on the Oversight Office website [].