Pago Pago -- American Samoa Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata is asking U.S. senators to let Gov. Lemanu Mauga exercise maximum flexibility in using federal Covid relief funds to address the territory's critical needs.
In a letter sent Friday to the U.S. Senate Natural Resources Committee leaders, Amata identified needs and priorities for American Samoa in the major coronavirus and economic relief legislation.
In a letter to committee chairman Joe Manchin and ranking Sen. John Barrasso, the congresswoman fully details several issues, including:
the need for LBJ Hospital renovation and Medicaid funding, especially flexibility in applying those funds.
requests for continued vaccine distribution support
apprises the committee of minimum wage factors and local economic conditions
requests fair inclusion for American Samoa in all education funding for grades K-12 as well as the American Samoa Community College
asks for inclusion in the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit to include administrative costs
another round of direct stimulus payments and unemployment compensation with a request to include workers lawfully in American Samoa that are currently excluded.
The congresswoman said current stimulus proposals in the House include upwards of $350 billion in local, state and territorial government fiscal recovery funds. She said she fought hard for the fair inclusion of American Samoa in more than $510 million for the American Samoa government.
“Last year, the initial stimulus plan for these governments provided funds but severely limited their use,” Uifa’atali wrote. “I understand the Senate may cut back these House amounts for state and territory governments but I hope you will protect the territories fair allotment and make sure our governor can utilize these funds for his priorities, particularly improvements to our LBJ hospital.”
She added that the committee support in directing a portion of the $510 million to improve the LBJ hospital would be significant.
She informed committee leaders that similar flexibility in spending could also be useful for financing our medicaid services matching portion.
“Fronting the Medicaid matching costs and awaiting reimbursement puts tremendous strain on the government’s budget and cash flow operations. Without improvements to our hospital we cannot fully take advantage of our allotted Medicaid funds,” said Uifa’atali. (Talanei)