Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has introduced legislation to extend the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, Title XVI of the Social Security Act, to include American Samoa. H.R. 2186 will amend Section 1101 (a)(1) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1301 (a)(1)), and if passed, allows U.S. nationals and U.S. citizens living in the U.S. Territory of American Samoa to become eligible to receive cash payments under the SSI program for the blind, aged, and disabled people.
Administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the SSI program was first enacted in 1972 and implemented in 1974. The purpose is to assure a minimum cash income to all aged, blind, or disabled persons or couples who have limited income and resources. Currently, SSI is afforded only to individuals living in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Another legislation currently pending in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 93) will also extend the SSI program to include Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“Extending the SSI program to the territory will provide tremendous help to families that are caring for a blind, aged, and disabled family member, and are struggling to make ends meet, especially under the current economic downturn. Coupled with an already high cost of living in the territory, providing for the basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter becomes an even greater challenge for those living in American Samoa,” Faleomavaega said.
“Under the SSI program, the federal government will provide supplemental cash assistance to individuals that are blind, disabled, 65 years and older, and with limited resources and limited income, to provide for their basic needs. Eligibility is restricted to U.S. nationals and U.S. citizens that reside in American Samoa. SSI payments are adjusted annually every January using national Consumer Price Index to reflect cost of living increase. The American Samoa Government may also choose to contribute to SSI payments but is not mandated,” Faleomavaega explained.
“Because of our remote and isolated geographic location, our local government lacks the resources to provide assistance to needy individuals, especially in light of today’s economic hardship. The SSI federal assistance program already exists in the 50 states and CNMI. I believe the SSI program should also be made available for the people of our territory.”
“Now that H.R. 2186 has been introduced, this is only the beginning of the legislative process in Congress. While congressional hearings on the bill have not been determined yet, I am also reaching out to the leaders of our local government, the Governor and the Fono, for their input on how to improve this bill and make the SSI program work for American Samoa. It is a long and cumbersome process but I look forward to working together with our local leaders to provide the much needed assistance to the people of our territory,” Faleomavaega concluded.