Governor wants DOI funds co-mingled with local revenue
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga wants Interior Department funding for American Samoa to co-mingle with local revenues and he will need to write an official request to the federal agency for consideration of this change.
Several years ago, DOI funding for ASG operations was sent directly to the local recipient, such as LBJ Medical Center, after the federal government raised concerns following complaints from LBJ and other recipients that they were not getting their money in a timely manner from the ASG Executive Branch.
The territorial leaders’ meeting held two weeks ago included Nikolao Pula, the Interior Department’s executive director for the Office of Insular Affairs. At last week's cabinet meeting, Lolo told directors that one of the items he raised with Pula during the leaders’ meeting was the issue of DOI’s annual funding for the American Samoa Government.
Lolo said his request is to allow American Samoa to receive all DOI grants-in-aid to come together to ASG. “And I have promised Nikolao that what ever amount that was earmarked for each authority will be given to them,” said Lolo.
Lolo says Pula is well aware of the territory’s situation, especially at LBJ Medical Center where “we have to find matching funds for the Medicaid” program. He also says that Pula suggested sending an official letter to DOI making this request.
“... co-mingling all local [revenue] with DOI funds will help us to solve that problem with the Medicaid matching funds,” he said.
LBJ has been depending on ASG's annual subsidies to provide matching funds for the Medicaid program and every time there is a long delay — such as the one which occurred two years ago — LBJ is unable to get that Medicaid funding. Overall LBJ’s annual budget is 80% funded by the federal government with a major contribution from the Medicaid program.
(Samoa News understands ‘matching funds’ cannot use a federal source, it must be local. However, with the co-mingling of local and federal funds, it would open the door to use these funds as from a ‘local’ source.)
Meanwhile, Lolo is embracing the close involvement of DOI when it comes to his administration and this is something new, compared to previous administrations.
Lolo told directors that territorial leaders were “very comfortable” with Pula’s participation and insight at the meeting. He emphasized to the directors that Lydia Faleafine-Nomura is head of the DOI office in Pago Pago “and she’s always welcome to be part of this administration.”
“...we know the difference and we know where to draw the line but to maximize the benefits by getting the sense and feel of what DOI feels is very, very important to us,” he said about DOI’s involvement.
He also told directors that there are many issues where they can receive help from Faleafine-Nomura. “You don’t have to come to me, if you have any questions, go directly to her and she’ll help you out,” he said.
“As far as us running this government, we try to utilize every help that we can” and Faleafine-Nomura, as the DOI field representative is part of the ASG operations. “In fact legally, we’re still under the umbrella of the Interior Department,” he pointed out. “We have to remember that in many cases we tend to think that we are on our own.”