Interior Dept. submits proposed 2022 funding for Am Samoa
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The US Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) has proposed more than $24 million in basic operations for the American Samoa government and nearly $10.3 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funds for the territory under the Biden Administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget proposal submitted to the US Congress.
This is according to DOI’s 83-page Budget Justification document, which summarizes the $684 million funding for OIA in the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, 2022. In a national news release late last week, DOI announced OIA’s budget proposal for FY 2022, that would fund initiatives benefitting fellow Americans in the U.S. Territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
It also includes funding for U.S. allies in the Pacific who have a Compact of Free Association with the United States – the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.
Proposed funding specifically earmarked for American Samoa is basic operations and CIP money — although there are other OIA programs for which American Samoa, along with other territories can apply, such as the Technical Assistance Grant.
According to the budget document, OIA proposes $24.62 million for American Samoa basic in operation funds — the same amount enacted for FY 2021 — with $13.08 million for basic operations; $9.06 for LBJ Medical Center operations; $1.55 million for American Samoa Community College operations and and $912,000 allocated for the High Court.
Each year OIA provides grant funds to American Samoa for the operation of the local government, including the judiciary. OIA explained that ASG does not have sufficient local revenue to fund the entire operating costs of its government. And the purpose of this program activity is to fund the difference between budget needs and local revenue.
DOI defines “budget needs” as the cost of maintaining current programs and services. Unless mutually agreed upon by the ASG and DOI, new programs are funded from local revenue.
“A secondary objective of this program activity is to promote self-sufficiency. Over the years, American Samoa has assumed an increasing percentage of the total costs of government operations,” according to the budget justification document.
Under the Capital Improvement Project (CIP) category — which has been a very important infrastructure development program for American Samoa over the years — the territory’s proposed allocation is nearly $10.3 million.
CIP funds address a variety of infrastructure needs in the U.S. territories including critical infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, wastewater and solid waste systems. OIA will work closely with the governor of the territory in future years to identify and prioritize investment in health care infrastructure.
Beginning with 2005, OIA implemented a competitive allocation system for the $27.7 million in mandatory CIP grants. It is based on a premise that all funds will be used for capital needs in the U.S. territories. The process offers the U.S. insular area governments an opportunity to compete each year for a portion of the guaranteed funding in addition to other assistance or local funding that might be available.
Base level funding was established on the basis of historic trends in 2005 when the competitive allocation system was implemented. It was adjusted for fiscal years 2012, 2017, and 2022 based upon the performance of each of the U.S. territories over the past five years as required by the 2004 Section 702 Funding Agreement between OIA and the CNMI.
Of the $27.7 million in mandatory CIP grants, American Samoa’s “baseline CIP funding” is just over $9.96 million, according to the budget justification document, which also outlined specific competitive criteria for proposed allocation. The territories are given a score on each of the criteria. The criteria themselves are ranked so that those considered more significant receive a higher weight than those considered less important in the overall, final score.
The competitive criteria gave American Samoa additional funding, with its proposed final FY 2022 CIP allocation at nearly $10.3 million - or just over $10.29 million, compared to the just over $10.28 million enacted in 2021.
The 2022 budget request was calculated utilizing the CIP selection criteria and methods.
“Over the past year, American Samoa’s infrastructure projects were stalled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the budget document. It says that Manulele Elementary School and Coleman Elementary School gym projects were both completed in 2020, but other school gymnasium projects were delayed due to hurricane season weather and pandemic-related shipping delays. The Tafuna Youth Center was also completed and dedicated in 2020.
The requested $10.3 million for 2022 will be used to continue meeting critical infrastructure needs in American Samoa similar to previous years, it says.
In submitting the proposed FY 2022 budget to the US Congress, US Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland said DOI plays an important role in President Biden’s plan to reinvest in the American people. “From bolstering climate resiliency and increasing renewable energy, to supporting Tribal nations and advancing environmental justice, President Biden’s budget will make much-needed investments in communities and projects that will advance our vision for a robust and equitable clean energy future,” she said in a national news release.
Acting Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Nikolao Pula points out that the proposed 2022 budget request “promotes racial justice and equity in underserved communities by fulfilling our insular area responsibilities in the Caribbean and the Pacific.”