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Governor sets overtime policy for COVID-19 related work — $50,000 or less qualifies

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Government employees making $50,000 or less a year will be entitled to overtime pay for work outside of their usual 40-hours per week for work involving the coronavirus declaration.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga announced the “benchmark” overtime pay for COVID-19 during the coronavirus task force meeting Sunday where he instructed the Acting Attorney General to draw up this overtime policy to be used going forward.

He said that all expenditures, and other expenses relating to the coronavirus go into this separate COVID-19 account, which will be used also for paying overtime as well.

He explained that all those getting paid $50,000 and under, qualify for overtime but those making more than $50,000 qualify for compensatory time for the hours worked outside of the 40-hours a week.  

According to the governor he didn’t sign off on some of the documents and paper work he received. For example, he said some deputy directors have pay grades in the $60,000 or $70,000 range.

“So that’s why this policy is being implemented for those making $50,000 or below to qualify for overtime,” he said.

He also pointed out that all directors do not qualify for overtime pay, and therefore are not allowed to submit any time worked. Lolo reminded directors that they were given a contract in which they carry out government work and other added responsibilities that the governor knows should be designated to directors.

“Directors and chief executive officers are separate from this overtime policy,” he said, and noted that he has set stipends for these individuals. While the amount of the stipend is small, it’s something to compensate them for their public service,  he said.

The governor told Samoa News last week directors serving on the COVID-19 task force and the coronavirus working group are given stipends of $1,000 per month to cover personal expenses and time dedicated to this effort. (See Samoa News edition May 1st for details.)

At Sunday’s meeting, Lolo said this policy for overtime should correct any confusion and misunderstanding before documents are submitted for his approval.

All those earning $50,000 and more, and are working after hours must obtain approval from the director, he said.

Furthermore, it’s also the director who gives the authorization for the person to work. And the director who doesn't sign the time card for overtime for those making $50,000 or less, will have the time card returned to the director for signature.

Lolo emphasized that all working hours remains at 40 a week but anything over 40 hours can be processed for overtime under the discussed caveats.

Lolo said there’s a lot of money coming in for the COVID-19 and the “more money we see, the cloudier our vision becomes on what is the right thing to do.” He also stressed that justification of all payments is required, as these documents are needed when it comes time to audit these programs.