Feds approve three daycare programs for relief payments for COVID-19
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Human and Social Service Department will start processing today, Apr. 15th, subsidy payments for all daycare providers in the territory, after approval was given by the agency’s federal grantor, according to director Muavaefa’atasi John Suisala at last Sunday’s ASG coronavirus task force meeting.
Muavaefa’atasi highlighted during the meeting — in which those who were in attendance all wore protective face masks including Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga — three programs that have been approved by the grantor in connection with relief payments for COVID-19.
FIRST RELIEF PROGRAM
The first subsidy program, Muavaefa’atasi said, would continue payments to all 23 daycare providers starting this month. The providers will continue to pay their 209 workers, with the minimum salary set at $800 a month for each worker.
The subsidy can also pay their rent, electric and communication, he said and noted that the goal is that when the daycares are re-opened the providers will still have employees to serve these daycare centers.
He says that starting, Apr. 15th, DHSS will process subsidy payments to all 23 providers.
“To protect the supply of child care”, DHSS “will continue to pay provider monthly subsidies, despite current closure to protect jobs, maintain facilities and sustain operations”, according to DHSS information shared at the meeting.
Additionally, effective this month of April, and no more than 60-days after they reopen — subsidy payments to daycare providers will be issued based on enrollment, rather than attendance to allow them to pay employees a minimum of $800 per month and pay fixed costs — e.g. utilities, communications, rent — and to maintain health and safety standards.
Furthermore, effective Apr. 15th, DHSS will be processing monthly relief subsidies to all 23 daycare providers, which serve 881 children — totaling $263,691 — with an estimated monthly payroll for 209 employees at $167,200.
Muavaefa’atasi emphasized that minimum salary for each daycare employee is $800 a month and not less. The providers are also to submit documentation for justification to DHSS at least 48 hours after the payment is released.
SECOND RELIEF PROGRAM
The second relief stipend is to daycare providers who can provide substantial proof that their monthly subsidy payments do not adequately cover the costs of sustaining their operations. The stipend amounts will depend on available funding and this additional relief can be available as of June 1st, according to DHSS information.
It also says that this additional relief ensures that the daycare providers maintain health and safety standards. And it’s based on the provider’s operations and the number of children it serves.
3RD RELIEF PROGRAM
The third relief approved by the grantor provides assistance for “first responders and essential workers” when American Samoa elevates its threat level to either Code Yellow or Code Red. At either of these two threat levels the public would be required to stay home except for first responders and essential workers.
But “children of these workers need to be taken care of,” said Muavaefa’atasi, adding that two options are offered under this program. The first is to get a family member to look after their children and the program pays 200 hours per month. The second option is that if no family member is a available, they can get someone outside of the family to care for the children while they are at work — provided that the person passes a background check. These caregivers — in both options — must e 18 years old and above.
The governor instructed Muavaefa’atasi to send the DHSS plan to the task force chairman, the acting Attorney General, and others to review prior to a public announcement.