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Interior awards $2.5M technical grants to American Samoa

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Department of the Interior has awarded more than $2.6 million in grant funding to the American Samoa government as part of the Office of Insular Affairs’ Technical Assistance Program for fiscal year 2020.

The funds, totaling $2,560,199, will support human resource development and training, technological upgrades, digitization and preservation efforts, and small business incubation efforts in American Samoa.

“[Interior] Secretary [David Bernhardt] and I are pleased to announce this funding for American Samoa, which will strengthen public services such as transportation, healthcare, and utilities. Funds will also be used to support and encourage the incubation of new business outsourcing efforts and to leverage new high-speed internet connections in the territory,” said DOI Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, Douglas W. Domenech. “We also appreciate Congress for the important funding support that it provides each year to American Samoa and each of the insular areas.”

The Technical Assistance Program grants provided to the various departments and offices within the American Samoa government for fiscal year 2020 are listed as follows: 

• Department of Legal Affairs – $499,000 will be used to digitize and preserve land title documents, business and articles of incorporation records, and other important legal registry documents dating back to the 1800s. Funding will also support computer upgrades and record digitization of the immigration and border management system in the territory.

• Lyndon B. Johnson Medical Center – $378,000 will be used to train and certify respiratory therapy technicians as well as procure a new human resources software system, provide training for staff on this new system, and train and certify respiratory therapy technicians. Funding will also be used to purchase new laboratory equipment and supplies.

• American Samoa Power Authority – $300,000 to upgrade the data center network, which includes the purchase of hardware, software, licensing, back-up modules, installation, and training. The upgrade will include new features to improve cybersecurity, disaster recovery, and service restoration in the event of emergencies.

• Department of Port Administration – $298,000 will be used to update the electronic ticketing and financial operations system for the territory’s intra-island ferry services as well as fund an upgrade of the video surveillance and security system at the Pago Pago International Airport. 

• American Samoa Shipyard Authority – $266,000 will be used to conduct hazardous waste removal from the shipyard in compliance with the Clean Water Act and other federal environmental protection regulations.

• Office of the Administrative Law Judge – $243,600 will be used to support efforts in the territory to strengthen administrative rule and to improve executive branch responsibilities, such as budget and policy development, economic development planning, and federal reporting requirements across government agencies in the territory.

• Department of Commerce – $188,800 will be used to support efforts to diversify the economy through outsourcing and help new and early-stage companies seeking to leverage the new high-speed internet infrastructure in the territory and connection to the global market through a business incubator.

• Department of the Treasury – $166,799 will be used to fund two years of participation in annual meetings for tax officials from American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau in the All Islands Tax Administrators Association (AITAA) meetings with officials from the Internal Revenue Service. The AITAA supports tax compliance and revenue management in the insular areas. The American Samoa government is currently managing AITAA administration and participation on behalf of the insular areas.

• Department of Public Works – $130,000 will be used to fund the first year of an apprenticeship and workforce development training and certification program with the American Samoa Community College to train new heavy machinery mechanics, welders, plumbers, journeymen, and carpenters. Funds will also be used to procure supplies and protective gear necessary for emergency responders in the face of natural disasters such as Cyclone Gita in 2018, which caused flooding and destruction across the territory.

• Department of Human Resources – $90,000 will be used to support the “Road to Recovery: Alcohol & Substance Abuse Initiative” by providing drug test kits and training as part of implementing a new drug and alcohol policy for civil servants in the territory.

All projects are funded through the Office of Insular Affairs’ Technical Assistance Program which is made available each year by Congress to support priorities in the U.S. territories and the freely associated states. (PR)

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