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ASG receives Fed approval to pay unemployment compensation

U.S. Dept. of Labor logo
Benefit payments may begin the week after agreement is signed

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga announced last Friday that the US Department of Labor has approved American Samoa’s application under the Employment & Training Administration — awarding $16.26 million through the CARES Act of 2020 to administer the Unemployment Insurance programs for American Samoa.

The governor last Thursday signed an Executive Order to administer the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) programs for the Territory’s workforce that has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a statement from the Governor’s Office.

The governor acknowledged with gratitude the hard work and diligence practiced by Director of Human Resources Eseneiaso J. Liu. and her staff who facilitated receipt of these much needed funds to provide financial relief to those who were furloughed or had their hours reduced because of our collective efforts to stop the entry and spread of the COVID-19.

“I am truly thankful to the Honorable Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training, John P. Pallasch and the US Department of Labor for continuing to be very sensitive and responsive to the needs of the people of the Territory of American Samoa,” he said.


In early April the U.S. Dept. of Labor published a direction to states and territories for Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).

Under this plan, “states” — specifically including Pacific territories and Freely Associated States that otherwise would not have had eligibility — would administer an additional $600 weekly payment to eligible individuals without currently paying jobs. Congress provided for this benefit in Section 2104 of the historic $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020.

The Labor Department has published an Unemployment Insurance Guidance Letter 15-20 (UIPL) that provides the structure for the unemployment checks distribution.

To provide assistance to those eligible, the benefit payments may begin as soon as the week after the execution of a signed agreement between the department and the state or territory.

 As states and territories begin providing this payment, eligible individuals will receive retroactive payments back to their date of eligibility or the signing of the state agreement, whichever came later.

The CARES Act specifies that FPUC benefit payments will end after payments for the last week of unemployment before July 31 of this year.

According to the Washington Post, House Democrats have proposed extending the aid through January 2021.

But congressional Republicans have said they are concerned that some workers are making more money on unemployment insurance than if they were on a payroll and therefore have less incentive to return to work or find a new job.

Information provided by Congresswoman Aumua Amata’s office contributed to this background.