Admin to survey how U.S. govt shutdown affects American Samoa
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Government received $5 million for its insurance claim for damage to government infrastructure following Tropical Cyclone Gita in February last year, according to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga in his State of the Territory Address on Monday before a joint session of the Fono for the official opening of the 36th Legislature.
An update on Gita and the partial federal shutdown were the first two issues the governor spoke about in his address delivered in Samoan, while the official written address was distributed to lawmakers and others.
“These are challenging times for American Samoa,” the governor told the audience, which included Congresswoman Aumua Amata, at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium, adding that before speaking on ASG's financial status and other issues, he wanted to speak briefly on the partial federal shutdown, which is now in its fourth week — and 27th day — as of today, Jan. 16th.
He noted that anytime the government closes, it impacts residents and this affects American Samoa. According to the governor, a memo will be issued for a survey to find out the impact of the shutdown on the territory's residents.
Upon completion of the survey, Fono leaders as well as the Congresswoman will be informed of the results and then look at ways to assist — programs and individuals — impacted by the shutdown, he said, adding that there’s a lot of federal money that assists the local government.
ASG officials told Samoa News yesterday that meetings were ongoing last week with local government agencies affected by the shutdown. Information is being collected and will be compiled for a report to the governor.
Lolo expressed appreciation to the Congresswoman, US Department of Interior, and federal partners in Washington D.C. that prompted quick federal responses to American Samoa in the aftermath of Gita.
He said the government, which makes yearly payments of $1.3 million to its insurance provider, filed a $15.3 million insurance claim following the assessment of damages to public facilities.
And so far, the government has received $5 million of that claim and ASG is working collaboratively with the insurance carrier to expedite the release of the remaining insurance proceeds so “we can continue the work, which has already begun, to repair our public infrastructure,” the governor said.
“While we lament the damages caused by Gita, the influx of federal assistance helped prop up our sagging economy…” due to the closure in 2009 of COS Samoa Packing and Samoa Tuna Processors Inc., in 2016, the governor explained.
He then gave a brief summary of federal assistance for American Samoa following Gita — for example, $20.39 million in individual assistance for individuals and families; $11.10 million in home and business loans; and $2.06 million in other federal grants to the Department of Human and Social Services for counseling and distribution to low income and destitute families for food assistance.
Most of the federal assistance came from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Lolo said, and there are some FEMA programs that need to be completed here but the federal agency is dealing with other disaster related matters in the US.
For assistance from the American Red Cross, the total came to $2.5 million in food and shelter following Gita, said the governor.
“Our economy experienced a much needed boost with the injection of new purchasing power spurred on by federal funds paid directly to individuals and families for damages inflicted by Tropical Storm Gita, along with business and housing loans issued to families and businesses,” he added.