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One more furlough day for ASG workers 60 and over — furlough means without pay

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In a June 1 memo to cabinet members, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga increased the number of furlough days from one to two a week for government employees who are 60-years old and older — amending a provision in his Fifth Amended Declaration, which extends the current COVID-19 declaration for another 30-days until the end of June.

The amended declaration states in part that effective June 1st, departments are to schedule a full four-day workweek, not to exceed 32 hours each week for employees who are 60 years of age and up. For the remaining workday in each week, these employees will be placed on furlough status.

“To continue our commitment to the protection of our vulnerable population age 60 years and older, the furloughed days for this government workforce age group... is changed from one (1) to two (2) days,” according to the governor’s June 1st memo to cabinet members.

“The furloughed days are set for Tuesdays and Thursdays for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic or soon[er if] terminated,” he said.

Lolo points out that this policy is geared for the general government and flexibility is granted to the ASG semi-autonomous agencies to develop its own furloughed protocols “mirroring the spirit of this policy predicated on guaranteeing continued effective and readily rendering of quality and uninterrupted services to the community”.

(Samoa News notes that ‘furloughed’ employees do not receive pay for the furlough days; it is a cost cutting measure.)

Cabinet directors were informed that they will be contacted by ASG Human Resources director, Eseneiaso J. Liu to make sure that all of the 60-years and older employees “are fully accounted for and to provide guidance on possible compensation” under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) programs for the furloughed days.

The PUA and FPUC programs are funded with the $16.26 million that American Samoa was awarded by the US Department of Labor under provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.

The programs administered locally by DHR, allows local residents whose jobs were impacted by the coronavirus to receive unemployment financial assistance.

In a May 27th executive order, Lolo ordered DHR to adopt the Hawaii Employment Security Law, as applicable, to administer the two federal programs. (See Samoa News edition May 29th for details.)