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Bill to hike retirement contributions quickly approved in the House

Rendering of proposed new Fono Building [SN file photo]

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The House of Representatives has approved a bill increasing members’ contributions to the American Samoa Employees Retirement Fund from 3% to 5%. The bill, which was only introduced on Tuesday was approved in second reading on Thursday and cleared final reading in the house on Friday with representatives voting unanimously for approval.

An amendment was made to make the effective date of the increase October 1, 2018 and this was passed during the bill’s third reading, after the House Counsel Nathaniel Savali was called to address members’ concerns about the effective date of the employee contribution increase.

During the House Retirement Committee hearing with members of the ASG Employees’ Retirement Fund (ASGERF) last week to discuss the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for retirees, Retirement Fund Board Chairman Va’anatiu Iafeta Tofala and ASGERF executive director, I’aulualo Talia Fa’afetai told members of the House committee that in order to increase the money in the Fund, one option is to hike contributions from both employees and employers; but the Fono would need to approve the Board’s proposal.

I’aulualo testified that the Fund has to draw down $1.5 million each month to make up the difference between what employees and employer ASG pay into the Fund, which comes to $800,000 and the $2 million that is paid out in retirement benefits.

The house bill was introduced by the chairman of the House Retirement Committee, Rep. Vailoata, along with 11 members as co sponsors; Fetu Fetui, Timusa Tini Lam Yuen, Fagaoatua Dorian Salave’a Veevalu Meauta Mageo, Matagi David Mauga, Vailiuama Steve Leasiolagi, Gafatasi Afalava, Fialupe Fiaui Lutu, Sataua Dr. Mataese Samuelu, Vesi Talalelei Fautanu and Manumaua Wayne Wilson.

The bill is now ready to transmit to the Senate where senators are expected to act on it before the current Fono session ends next week.