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Each of four village aumaga issued $10,000 CARES Act checks

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga
Village Enforcement program gears up in Leone, Faleniu, Pago Pago and Nu’uuli

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The aumaga — or untitled men — of the four villages already approved for the government’s enforcement program, not only for the coronavirus restrictions but illegal drugs, are each getting a $10,000 check, funded with ASG’s share from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

As previously reported by Samoa News, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga announced during an ASG coronvirus task force meeting at the beginning of June that he had spoken with traditional leaders of four villages — Leone, Faleniu, Pago Pago and Nu’uuli — which kicked off this new enforcement at the village level during the week of June 15th.

According to the governor, village participation is not only for COVID-19 restrictions but other issues impacting villages such as illegal drugs. He also said that the enforcement program would continue even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

At this past Sunday’s task force meeting, the governor instructed the Police Commissioner, Le’i Sonny Thompson, and the Governor’s Chief of Staff, Fiu J. Saelua, to conduct a site inspection of the four villages for the enforcement and take along checks to these villages.

The governor didn’t provide additional details about the checks or the amount. Samoa News received information Monday afternoon from ASG sources with knowledge of the payments that the check amount for each village is $10,000.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, task force chairman Iulogologo Joseph Periera said yesterday morning that the funding source for the checks comes from the government’s “COVID-19 CARES ACT operating funds.”

“The funds will provide the financial means for the village to purchase food and other supplies connected with surveillance activities conducted throughout the night and for other activities deemed appropriate by the village to improve and sustain the effectiveness of these enforcement networks,” he said, when asked how the funds will be used by the village aumaga.

He points out that the village Aumaga will supplement the enforcement of the virus declaration restrictions within the respective villages throughout the night once everything closes at 9 p.m. daily.

Furthermore, village enforcement activities are closely coordinated with the Police Commissioner and the Department of Public Safety with the physical presence of Public Safety Officers in the village command posts to facilitate the required coordination given that the village aumaga lack the authority to arrest or detain any potential or alleged violators.

At the task force meeting on Sunday, the governor says more villages have requested to be included in the village enforcement and the Police Commissioner was asked to work with the Office of Samoan Affairs on this matter.

He, however, stressed that all villages participating in this enforcement, must first have a designated ‘fale leoleo’ or security building as a main site of the operation, and not a Samoan guest fale. For example, Pago Pago has a specific “fale leoleo”.

He said a designated building must be set up first so that “we know the village and leaders are committed” to this program.

Asked how a village becomes part of the enforcement program, Iulogologo said yesterday that the police commission has been delegated the responsibility to review and approve the requests from Village Aumaga wishing to participate in the village enforcement program.