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Task Force members get $2,000 checks as “token of appreciation”

ASG’s COVID-19 Task Force

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has confirmed that ASG Coronavirus Task Force members were given checks of $2,000 at the end of last Sunday’s task force meeting and the stipend covers two months - March and April.

“The policy was established to provide a token of appreciation to the directors who have been placed on the Task Force as it will be cheaper to do this than to pay them on a per hourly of overtime incurred,” the governor said yesterday responding to Samoa News inquiries.

He points out that directors are expected to work on a 24/7 basis but task force work is in additional to their mandated responsibilities.

This stipend is a “token of appreciation for the extra work that directors have been assigned to do,” the governor stressed, adding that directors have been informed that  “Coronavirus related work is on top of the regular duties and responsibilities.”

Under this policy, the directors serving on the task force and working group are given stipends of $1,000 per month to cover personal expenses and time dedicated to this effort, he pointed out.

Furthermore, members of the Coronavirus Working Group who are not directors will accumulate their overtime hours and then be paid.

“These directors put in a lot of time on this effort after hours, holidays, and weekends. The same goes with the members of the Working Group,” said the governor.

As previously reported by Samoa News, all cabinet directors are political appointees, who are appointed by the chief executive, and serve during a sitting governor’s term, and are subject to removal by the governor.

At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, the governor reminded cabinet directors of their responsibility to ensure all hours worked by ASG employees relating to the coronavirus must be documented and submitted to him for review and approval.

Work done related to the coronavirus are considered overtime, outside of regular working hours, and when hours are submitted, justification must also be provided. The governor says the delay in paying these hours to workers is due to a director’s failure to provide timely information, not just working hours but justification.

These documents are needed when ASG submits records for reimbursement from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Also during task force meeting, the local Homeland Security Department I updated the governor and the task force on the status of overtime hours recorded. Under pay period #6 and #7 the total is $18,187 and for pay period #8 the total is $7,445.

The department also provided the status of reimbursement submitted to FEMA — with the first-batch at $3.5 million; and the 2nd batch totaling $1.5 million. And these are reimbursement requests for COVID-19 activities.

The governor, during a cabinet meeting in late February says the ASG Special Account, which was initially set up late last year for the measles outbreak, would continue covering expenses for the coronavirus pandemic.