Status of Small Business Credit Initiative in limbo
Pago pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — While American Samoa has been allocated $56 million from the State Small Business Credit Initiative, (SSBCI) administered by the U.S. Treasury Department, the program is “currently undergoing federal review before it can be made available again to the public,” according to the Governor’s State of the Territory Comprehensive Report distributed last month to lawmakers.
Some local businesses and others in the community have queried as to the status of this federal program, in which a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report yesterday says the U.S. Treasury has taken longer than expected to disburse funds to U.S. jurisdictions.
SSBCI was originally established through federal law in 2010 and reauthorized under the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021. American Samoa businesses benefited from the original SSBCI, with millions of dollars in federal allocations at the time.
According to the Comprehensive Report, advancement of economic development is inherent in the strengthening and expansion of the local business sector, increasing export earnings by attracting new industries and foreign capital investment in manufacturing and processing, creating economic surplus by expanding the economic contributions of tourism, fisheries, agriculture, and telecommunications, as well as increasing the multiplier effect of every federal dollar entering the territory.
It explains the four basic programs carried out to achieve these goals: small business technical assistance program, small business information assistance service program, small business financial assistance program, and the small business awareness and referral service program.
No other information in the Comprehensive Report of how ASG will use the $56 million allocation for its SSBCI share or when or if the govt plans to implement new economic programs, using this federal money.
In its report issued yesterday, the GAO said that ARPA requires U.S Treasury to complete all disbursements and remaining obligations of SSBCI funds before September 30, 2030. Additionally, all 50 states, five territories (including American Samoa), the District of Columbia, and 283 tribal governments have applied for these funds.
Furthermore, some of the states already have begun to receive SSBCI funding, and most states and territories plan to use it “for a mix of lending and equity investment programs.”
“However, Treasury is taking longer than expected to review applications and disburse funds,” GAO found in its review of the SSBCI. “We found that it could improve how it plans these and other program activities — such as identifying interim steps and staff responsible for each activity.”
GAO’s “recommendation for executive action” is for the U.S Treasury’s Chief Recovery Officer to fully incorporate best practices for project scheduling related to sequencing and establishing the duration of activities, assigning resources to activities, and updating the schedule using actual progress into its planning processes for the SSBCI program.
GAO provided a draft of the report to U.S Treasury for comments. And Treasury responded that it agreed with the goal of ensuring appropriate planning and scheduling for Treasury’s implementation of the SSBCI program. Treasury stated it will study GAO’s best practices for project scheduling and review options for incorporating additional functionality into its planning for the SSBCI program in line with our recommendation.
Samoa News notes that American Samoa is not specifically mentioned in the GAO findings, which is online at (www.gao.gov).