Pres. Trump approves Gov. Lolo's state of emergency request

fili@samoanews.com

Specific “direct federal assistance” requests sent by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to US President Donald J. Trump following last Friday’s Tropical Storm Gita includes generators, medical supplies and first aid kits.

And in the wake of the damage caused by the storm, all public schools will be closed this whole week, as well as all Catholic schools. Some private schools were closed yesterday and reopened today. ASCC was closed yesterday and again today.

Lolo’s official request to Trump was submitted last Saturday and 24 hours later, the White House released an official statement that the President had given approval and declared that “an emergency exists” in the territory and “ordered Federal assistance to supplement response efforts in the territory due to the emergency conditions” from the storm.

In his letter, the governor noted that beginning on Feb. 7, heavy rain from an active monsoonal trough began impacting the territory causing flash flooding and as the trough intensified, it caused public schools to be closed for two days. Then on Feb. 9, the trough merged with Gita prompting him to “declare a state of emergency”.

He said the storm “caused extensive damage to power grid” and the territory requires immediate assistance in restoring power and communication that have been severely impacted.

According to the governor, he determined that this “incident is of such severity and magnitude that continued effective response” is beyond ASG’s capabilities and “supplemental federal assistance is necessary to save lives and to protect property, public health, and safety and to lessen the effects of this imminent catastrophe.”

Therefore, he requested Public Assistance emergency protective measures limited to direct federal assistance. “Specific direct federal assistance needs include generators, transmission wire, cots, tents, medical supplies and first aid kits,” he wrote, adding that ASG will assume all applicable non-federal shared costs as required by federal law.

Included with the governor’s letter are supporting documents, such as Lolo’s Feb. 9 declaration a state of emergency, which he says was necessary:

•     to reduce the vulnerability of people to damage, injury, and loss of life and property;

•     prepare for the prompt and efficient rescue, care, and treatment of persons affected by the disaster; and

•     to provide a setting conducive to rapid and orderly restoration and rehabilitation of persons and property affected by this disaster.

In granting American Samoa’s request, Trump authorized the US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts “to help alleviate the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency” in the territory.

“Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide, at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency,” according to the proclamation released by the White House. It also says that emergency protective measures, limited to direct Federal assistance, will be provided at 75% federal funding.

Congresswoman Aumua Amata, who was on island during the storm, said she saw the damages first hand throughout the community. She expressed appreciation to both the governor’s prompt request for federal action and Trump’s quick response.

“For many, these damages are causing difficult times, and recovery will be costly and always takes time,” she said in a news release yesterday. “I’m very pleased to know that federal help is already arriving, and those resources will help restore services.”

FEMA ASSISTANCE

FEMA released on Sunday a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under Trump’s declaration for American Samoa.

According to the FEMA fact sheet, the agency is authorized to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the federal Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the designated areas.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to provide emergency protective measures (Category B), limited to direct federal assistance, under the Public Assistance program at 75% federal funding.

(Samoa News notes that the other 25% is funded by ASG.)

FEMA official Benigno Bern Ruiz has been appointed Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in American Samoa for this disaster.

LOCAL ASSESSMENT

At daybreak yesterday, ASG Emergency Operation Center (EOC) damage assessment teams began their work — which will run through Friday — conducting an assessment of disaster-related damages for individual loss and public infrastructure.

The outcome of these assessments will determine what individuals qualify for FEMA’s Individual Assistance (IA) or Public Assistance (PA) programs, according to an EOC statement Sunday night.

IA teams will assess disaster-related damages for individuals, including homes and other personal property loss, while PA teams will assess disaster-related damages of government and non-profit public facilities and infrastructure.

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