Trump Admin proposes reduction in American Samoa’s basic op funding
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Trump Administration is proposing a reduction for American Samoa’s basic operations funding for the new fiscal year (FY 2021), under the US Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs budget submitted to the US Congress on Monday.
According to an OIA budget justification document, the requested amount for basic operations is $21.52 million — a reduction of nearly $2.60 million — from the FY 2020 enacted budget allocation of $24.12 million. American Samoa’s FY 2019 actual allocation was $23.72 million for basic operations.
(Samoa News points out that the current funding level was the result of Congresswoman Aumua Amata’s request through Congress.)
In the budget document, the OIA explained that it provides annual grant funds to American Samoa to support the operations of the local government including the judiciary; and budget requests will continue support for the American Samoa Government but will require greater self-sufficiency from American Samoa as they will need to fund an increased share of their operations.
Data in the budget justification document notes that over $11.41 million is for basic operations; $7.9 million to LBJ Medical Center; $1.36 million for American Samoa Community College operations; and $855,000 to the High Court (The money covers the salaries and benefits of the Chief Justice and Associate Justice, who are appointed by the Secretary of Interior and considered federal employees).
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROJECT
Under Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding, the total budget request for American Samoa is $10.28 million — an increase of $542,000 from the FY 2020 budget of more than $9.73 million.
In 2005, OIA implemented a competitive allocation system for the $27.7 million in mandatory CIP grants. The process offers the insular area governments an opportunity to compete each year for a portion of the guaranteed funding in addition to other assistance or local funding that might be available. The allocation system was adjusted for fiscal years 2012 and 2017 based on the performance of each of the U.S. territories.
Determination of the annual allocation is based on a set of competitive criteria that measure the demonstrated ability of the insular area governments to exercise prudent financial management practices and to meet federal grant requirements.
For FY 2021, American Samoa’s proposed based line funding is $9.78 million — with an additional $500,000 as a result of the competitive process — totaling $10.28 million, the document notes, adding that the requested FY 2021 funding will be used to continue meeting critical infrastructure needs in American Samoa similar to previous years.
(As in past years, ASG will submit its CIP plan, compiled by the CIP Committee appointed by the Governor, of how the money is allocated in FY 2021. The CIP plan outlines priority projects for funding.)
OIA explained that the objective of this program is to assist American Samoa in providing infrastructure to promote economic development and improve health, education, and public safety.
Several important CIP projects in American Samoa were completed and others made significant progress over the past year. Notably, Public Works completed numerous school projects i.e. maintenance, repairs, and new construction of classrooms (Tafuna HS, Manulele and Matafao Elementary) and gymnasiums (Matafao and Tafuna Elementary)
LBJ Medical Center made steady progress on the renovation and expansion of the Labor, Delivery, and Operating Room while the American Samoa Telecommunications Authority (ASTCA) completed construction on its new Hawaiki fiber optic cable and critical utility upgrades.
OTHER OIA PROGRAMS
OIA proposed funding for other grant programs for the insular areas, under which American Samoa benefited in FY 2019. The FY 2021 budget justification document <www.doi.gov/oia)> provides a summary of the various programs and how each insular area government benefited from it in FY 2019.
In a national news release, US Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs, Douglas W. Domenech said the FY 2021 budget request “prioritizes” DOI’s “mission to fulfill our insular area responsibilities in the Pacific as well as in the Caribbean… This funding request exemplifies President Trump and [Interior[ Secretary Bernhardt’s continued support for the U.S. territories and the freely associated states,” he added.
The AP and other US news outlets reported Monday that Trump’s federal budget of $4.8 trillion proposal made deep cuts to domestic programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and housing. According to the AP, the proposal would cut $465 billion from Medicaid providers such as hospitals. The impact of the Medicaid cuts to America Samoa should be known later this year.
Samoa News notes that the US Congress — through the efforts of Congresswoman Aumua Amata and support from the Lolo Administration — recently approved $84 million for Medicaid for American Samoa for FYs 2020 and 2021.