Gov. Lolo says coronavirus is straining ASG’s financial resources
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said spending ASG financial resources to — among other things — construct needed quarantine facilities to combat the coronavirus, has “added strain to our cash flow,” and has started to impact the quality of regular health services for American Samoa.
The governor made the claim in a Mar. 27th letter to Congresswoman Aumua Amata, who was informed that while the governor understands that priority funding is accorded to US states with steep and rising Coronavirus curves, ”I want to make sure that we obtain the resources to allow us to protect the lives of our people.”
Lolo’s letter went out the same day that US President Donald Trump signed into law the $2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act after it passed the US Congress.
Aumua, who has issued several news releases on action in Congress including the CARES Act to help Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic, issued over the weekend a summary of how the CARES Act will assist the territory.
Among the funding is nearly $40 million of the non-state set-aside funds in the direct aid portion for state and territory governments. (www.radewagen.house.gov)
In his letter, the governor takes the view that the “needs of the territories, particularly American Samoa, with no confirmed case, are relegated secondary status.”
Lolo explained that ASG “have been spending our own financial resources to construct needed quarantine facilities as our frontline protective zone to monitor travelers.”
Additionally, ASG has also purchased medical supplies including personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks so “we can protect our first responders particularly our health care personnel.”
“This is beginning to impact the quality of our regular services to the community,” Lolo explained. “While it is our hope that these costs will be reimbursable, it will take time for the receipt of these funds, which causes added strain to our cash flow position.”
Lolo requested that Aumua look at the distribution formula and the inherent criteria “because our population size will not accurately reflect needed financial resources to fully meet our demands.”
“We face inordinate challenges because of our geographical location. Often times this material fact is not reflected in the federal funds distribution formula,” he points out.
While appreciative of the financial aid package approved so far at the federal level, Lolo hopes the “regular grant conditions will be applied under these emergency times so we can access the funds right away given that our economy is nose-diving, shrinking government revenues.”
In closing the governor thanked Aumua for working to ensure that the needs of American Samoa are fully articulated with assurance of its fair share of Congressional approved COVID-19 relief funds.
ASG’s COVID-19 Task Force chairman Iulogologo Joseph Pereira says yesterday morning that the governor has not yet receive a reply from the Congresswoman.