Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Aumua Amata (Western Samoa)
December 21, 2020
Washington, D.C. – Monday, Congresswoman Uifaatali Amata hailed House passage of priorities that she has sought for American Samoa, part of major year-end government funding, health care and economic assistance legislation. The bill includes these key local objectives:
- A direct increase of $500,000 for ASG Operations as she requested, restoring $3 million over the Interior Department plan;
- Renewal of the successful small business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) with improvements on loan forgiveness;
- $600 direct payments for individuals and their dependents;
- Funding for vaccine production, distribution and testing that will aid the Territory;
- Extending the American Samoa Economic Development Credit that preserves local cannery and fishing jobs;
- A three percent pay raise for the U.S. military.
- $20 billion nationally to restart the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advances.
- Incorporates Amata co-led PPE Act provisions to allow businesses to use Paycheck Protection Program loan money to cover expenses of providing personal protective equipment to their employees.
Other aspects of the bill that could benefit American Samoa include these measures:
- Funding for schools nationally through $82 billion to the Education Stablization Fund.
- $45 billion nationally for transportation, including airports.
- Medical billing reform, including stopping surprise billing and providing for independent arbitration.
- Broadband support for programs to underserved areas.
“I’m encouraged to know assistance will be on the way soon,” said Congresswoman Amata. “People can expect $600 assistance payments for adults and dependents with qualifications much like the last one for U.S. Nationals and Citizens. ASG Operations will be increased for the fourth straight year. PPP assistance will start again with options for second loans, simplified loan forgiveness, and to seek EIDL advances. These small business programs already put over $24 million into our local economy this year. Our fishing and cannery jobs are more secure with a one year extension of our economic development tax credit. The bill sets aside billions to get the vaccine everywhere it needs to go, with assistance for our Territory. Finally, the bill includes the much-deserved 3 percent pay increase for our Armed Forces.”
The Amata-requested direct increase for ASG Operations of $500,000 is $3 million above the Interior Department proposed budget. These four straight yearly increases total about $2 million in direct increases, in addition to each year restoring millions in requested budget cuts by Interior.
Notably, the bill puts $20 billion into making vaccines, another $8 billion to ship and distribute them, and $20 billion for testing in states and territories.
Amata also welcomes the extension of Medicaid availability to people living in the United States from Palau, Marshall Islands, and Micronesia.