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Governor calls for COVID-19 funding info to be shared and properly implemented

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — With millions of dollars designated for American Samoa under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, Economic Security (CARES) Act, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga is calling a meeting early next week of all key agencies benefiting from these COVID-19 funds.

Since the federal law became effective last month, several federal agencies — such as the US Small Business Administration (SBA) — immediately issued news releases outlining benefits for states and territories. Congresswoman Aumua Amata has also been putting out information on a daily basis on the availability of funds benefiting American Samoa.

But questions have been raised in the community, including the private sector, as to how and when American Samoa will provide information and updates on how locals can benefit or apply for this federal funding.

In an Apr. 14th memo to cabinet members, the governor notes that several federal grantors — such as the SBA, US Department of Interior, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Federal Emergency Management Agency — have identified assistance for American Samoa.

Accordingly, the governor called a meeting among key agencies with forthcoming COVID-19 grants to be held Apr. 21st at the Governor’s Office conference room.

Lolo said all agency heads “must attend this important meeting” with a grant manager of the particular program receiving COVID-19 funds and finance officer to ensure that information is clearly shared among key staff for coordination and proper implementation of these COVID-19 grants and “to make sure that we don’t duplicate our efforts.”

In preparation for the meeting, the governor requested each agency head to provide specific information, such as grantor; grant program name, total award, and eligible use of funds — at least a day before the meeting.

All questions or concerns, are directed to the ASG’s COVID-19 Task Force chairman, said Lolo.

At last Sunday’s task force briefing, the governor requested certain cabinet members to look into emergency unemployment insurance provision of the CARES Act on specific benefits for American Samoa, which doesn’t have an unemployment insurance program.

One of the benefits from the CARES Act, which many local residents have asked about several times over the past days is when local residents are getting their stimulus check — which administered by the US Treasury Department.

Early this month, ASG Treasurer Ueligitone Tonumaipe’a, encouraged “all taxpayers who have not filed their 2019 tax returns, and are expecting tax refunds to file as soon as possible.”

He said these filings would also be used as the basis to determine eligibility for the stimulus funding included under the CARES Act.

(Samoa News should point out that the federal stimulus funding guidelines note that 2018 tax returns can be also used, not only 2019 filings.)