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COVID Task Force financial report shows expenditures of $73M plus

Earlier Task Force meeting

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa spent more than $73 million in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with the first case of community spread of the deadly virus in February last year, followed by the first recorded death the following month, according to the recently completed 2022 COVID-19 Task Force Operations financial report.

The task force — chaired by Lt. Gov. Talauega E. V. Ale officially ended its work last month — and Gov. Lemanu P. S. Mauga promised the public and lawmakers a final financial expenses report of American Samoa’s response and recovery from the virus.

The report — which covers the period of Jan. 01 to Dec. 31, 2022 — presents detailed financial assistance information and services provided during this period.

The report also provides information about assistance provided to impacted workers, businesses and non-profits as a result of the restrictions; the number of travelers to American Samoa; the quarantine and monitoring services, first responders and public health’s  response to local residents.

According to the 87-page report, total COVID expenses reached nearly $74 million — or $73,949,116 — with the highest expenditure of nearly $50 million — or $49,989,099 — under the category of “COVID-19 Relief”.

This expense category includes the $100 Incentive for Vaccination, Cash Assistance for impacted workers and non-profit entities under Human Resources Department, Commerce Department’ Business Recovery Capital Program (BRCP) — Line of Credit (LOC) and BRCP, DOC Cash Assistance Program (CAP) for Businesses, Human and Social Services’ (DHSS) Child Care, DHSS WIC & ASNAP and Education Department’s Mass Care and Meal Coupons.

(Samoa News has reported on the specific issues above in the past months, as separate reports became available from ASG.)

The next highest expense is $5.47 million for “Personnel” costs, which includes new personal, contractual short-term workers, American Samoa Community College Nurses/ Health Professionals, and overtime, according to the report.

The third highest expenditure is “Hotel” category totaling $3.21 million for “Quarantine and Samoa Air Pilots” at Tradewinds Hotel, Sadie’s by the Sea, Fatu o Aiga facility and Maliu Mai resort.

This followed with $3.2 million for “Safe Travels” category, which is for the TalofaPass program contracted to Datahouse. (As previously reported by Samoa News, this contract is the subject of a probe by the Senate Select Investigative Committee.)

The report further shows another high expenditure, totaling $2.90 million under “Rental”, for tents, tables, chairs, vehicles, facilities, and flood lights for Flight Nights.

Additionally, a total of $2.27 million for “media” outreach programs, such as public service announcements.

ASG paid out more than $1.8 million for “Meals” expenditures, which covers quarantine passengers, vaccination-drive and ‘Test-to-treat’ site workers.

For “Supplies & Expenses” category, a total of $1.15 million was paid for office supplies, uniforms, equipment, virtual support, electronic equipment & supplies, water and others.

Under “Transport” — for buses, new vehicles and vehicle rental — expenses, ASG paid $1.02 million

Category expenditures below one-million dollars include:

•           $924,483 to sanitation and cleaning services companies — Island Safety Sanitation, Snow and Anvee;

•           $801,758 for Contractual Services to U.S. based private law firms and others; and

•           $640,777 for facilities used for DoH vaccination sites — church halls and community centers.

Each expense category provides the funding source, such as the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Governor’s Office Special Programs, and some ASG departments.

“American Samoa has raised the issue of the importance of good governance and sound leadership while making the tough decisions to accomplish the most challenging of goals to inspire improving the quality of government services, especially during an emergency,” according to a statement included in the report, which Samoa News obtained yesterday.

“The COVID-19 Task Force, public leaders, and private sector continue to display extraordinary courage, sacrifice, communication, resilience, trust, and mitigation efforts to continue to keep American Samoa safe,” it says.

Samoa News will report in future edition on specific issues cited in the report, which is expected to be submitted to the Fono, which has sought a full financial report of COVID-19 expenditures.