Capitol Hill News

compiled by Samoa News staff

$175,000 HHS GRANT FOR AM SAMOA HEALTH DEPARTMENT

Congresswoman Aumua Amata was pleased to welcome the announcement of a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) grant of over $175,000 for the American Samoa Government.

“I appreciate this financial support for American Samoa, particularly for healthcare needs,” Aumua Amata said. “Federal funding enables many efforts that otherwise would be difficult to finance in American Samoa, and health related funding is always welcome.”

Specifically, this $175,700 grant is designated to the American Samoa Department of Health and assigned to the Pacific Basin program.

“Congratulations to Director Motusa Tuileama Nua, the entire Department and those working with this program,” the Congresswoman continued. “Thank you to HHS for awarding this grant.”

EXAMINING TECH IMPACT ON SBA DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS

Chairman Aumua Amata on Thursday presided over a Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology hearing that examined how SBA development programs are evolving with technology.

“American Samoa depends on small businesses, and constant changes in technology bring both opportunities and sometimes burdens to them,” Aumua Amata said. “The SBA’s entrepreneurial programs are adapting to technology changes that can be new to businesses, but technology is also making these SBA programs more available to wider audiences. American Samoan businesses can access some programs remotely, but I hope to see these opportunities increasingly able to reach American Samoa more consistently.”

Thursday’s hearing was titled Tech Talks: How SBA Entrepreneurial Development Programs Have Evolved with Technology..

The hearing benefited from an expert group of witnesses testifying on behalf of the Association of Women’s Business Centers, America’s Small Business Development Centers, SCORE Association, and the Veterans Business Outreach Center.

Congresswoman Amata’s first questions to the witnesses regarded the availability of SBA services in remote locations, including American Samoa, that do not have “brick and mortar” facilities for their programs. For instance, the nearest SBA Small Business Development Center is in Hawaii; however, some programs, such as SCORE webinars might be available to American Samoan businesses. The hearing examined how the Small Business Administration’s Entrepreneurial Development programs are changing their training and counseling programs to reflect the market’s increased reliance on technology.

“SBA programs can help small businesses navigate technology changes,” continued Congresswoman Amata. “Ultimately, we want technology not to leave small businesses behind, but to lift them up.”

AMATA WELCOMES RMI PRESIDENT HILDA HEINE

Congresswoman Aumua Amata was privileged to meet Wednesday afternoon with President Hilda Heine of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Marshall Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs John Silk, and Ambassador to the United States Gerald Zackios.

 “It was a real honor to welcome my friend, President Hilda Heine, Minister Silk and Ambassador Zackios to the United States Capitol,” said Aumua Amata. “The Pacific Island nations and territories have much in common with each other, and we all benefit greatly from mutual friendships.” 

 “My family and I lived in the Marshall Islands for some time as a child when my father served there, and it was both a happy and an important time in my life and education,” Congresswoman Amata continued. “I appreciate President Heine’s time today, and more importantly, her dedication and public service. I look forward to future opportunities to work together on behalf of American Samoa and the Marshall Islands.”

CONFIRMATION OF DOUG DOMENECH

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today applauded the Senate’s confirmation of Interior Department veteran Douglas William Domenech as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Areas. Domenech was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday and will be sworn-in in the coming days. President Trump nominated him in June.

"I am excited to officially welcome Doug back to the Department to lead the Administration’s initiatives in the insular areas," said Secretary Zinke. "Doug’s confirmation could not come soon enough for the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico who are rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Irma. I’m excited to put him to work for them and all our brothers and sisters across the insular areas.  I would also like to thank Nikolao Pula, who now resumes his duties as the Director of Insular Affairs for his time and service as the Acting Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas."

“It is a great responsibility and honor to accept this important position which helps bridge the distance and raise awareness about the insular areas to decision makers in Washington, D.C.” said Domenech. “Island governments face the basic challenge of higher costs and limited resources as they serve the people. Recent catastrophic events surrounding Hurricane Irma only heighten these challenges. It is critically important that our neighbors and fellow Americans feel confident that we in the federal government can help address these challenges. I look forward to working with leadership from each of these islands to find innovative solutions to the challenges we all face together.”

The Office of the Assistant Secretary Insular Areas coordinates federal policy for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). In addition, the Office is responsible for administering and overseeing U.S. Compact grant assistance to the freely associated states of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau.

Domenech, whose family is from Puerto Rico, holds a BS in Forestry and Wildlife Management from Virginia Tech University and currently serves as Senior Advisor to Interior Secretary Zinke. Previously, he served as the Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia overseeing six state environmental, recreation, and historic resource agencies. During the George W. Bush Administration, Domenech served as White House Liaison and Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretaries Norton and Kempthorne. In addition, he served as the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas. Domenech currently serves as the Secretary’s appointee to the Advisory Council of the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico.

Domenech’s nomination was endorsed by four Governors of the U.S. territories; U.S. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp, American Samoa Governor Lolo Moliga, Guam Governor Eddie Calvo, and CNMI Governor Ralph Torres.

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