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ASG works on mitigation plan for federal budget cuts

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga is expected to announce soon his administration’s “mitigation plan” to address automatic federal budget cuts across the board that are expected to go into effect today, if the U.S. Congress fails to pass a federal budget to cover the rest of the current fiscal year up to Sept. 30.


Implementation of automatic cuts, or the co-called "sequester" for budget year 2013 is outlined in the Budget Control Act of 2011. As of late yesterday afternoon, all efforts in Congress to ward off the 2013 sequestration appear to have hit a brick wall in Congress, according to national media reports.


ASG gets a large chunk of federal funds for its operations, and this does not include the millions of dollars in federal grants, which partly fund some departments while others are fully funded by those grants.


For example, Department of Human and Social Services, and the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources are fully funded by federal money.


Of the more than $490 million in ASG’s fiscal year 2013 budget, $23 million is in Interior Department Grant-in-Aid and $113.05 million in federal grants, according to the FY 2013 budget document.


Asked as to the impact on ASG operations if the federal budget cuts go into effect, ASG Treasurer Falema’o “Phil” Pili could only say that, “We will be affected by it; and the governor is aware of it" and he will announce our mitigation plan soon.


The Treasurer, who responded via e-mail from the mainland, is among members of the governor’s staff attending meetings in the U.S. They are en route to the territory, with a last stop in Hawai’i.


“The sequestration will be in effect Mar. 1st” and "we are certainly working" on a mitigation plan, he added.


The immediate impact of a sequester on the American Samoa government and private sector remains unclear at this point. Two senior ASG officials told Samoa News yesterday that they won’t know the full impact on local government services until later today or this weekend, when more information comes in from federal grantors.


Concerns about the so-called “sequester” were also raised by governors and Congressional delegates from the territories during Tuesday’s meeting of the federal Interagency Group in Insular Areas (IGIA).


In a video of comments posted by the U.S. Department of Interior about the IGIA meeting, Deputy Secretary of Interior David J. Hayes says it's interesting that the territorial leaders are coming in to Washington D.C. in  the midst of “sequester” this week.


“These are territories that rely very heavily on the relationship with the federal government” and the governors and the delegates are “extraordinarily concerned” about “the impact of the non discretionary cuts… on their people,” said Hayes.


Also on the video, Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo says that it is unclear as to the impact of the sequestration to the territories but they are still worried. “There’s an old analogy that if there’s a sneeze in the states, it will be pneumonia in the territories and that fact is also relevant for sequestration,” he said.


The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Senate swatted aside last-ditch plans to block $85 billion in broad-based federal spending reductions yesterday as President Barack Obama and Republicans blamed each other for the latest outbreak of gridlock and the administration readied plans to put the cuts into effect.


The immediate impact of the reductions on the public was uncertain, and the administration pulled back on its earlier warnings of long lines developing quickly at airports and teacher layoffs affecting classrooms, the AP reports.