Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has placed a call to personally thank U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis for providing the American Samoa Government (ASG) with assistance and guidance in response to the tsunami that struck the islands on September 29, 2009.
In May of this year, Faleomavaega met with U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) officials regarding national emergency grants (NEGS) in response to Chicken of the Sea’s announced closure. Faleomavaega then forwarded this information to Governor Togiola in a letter dated May 7, 2009, providing the Governor with the contact information necessary to request national emergency grants and informing the Governor and the public that any request put forward must originate with the Governor.”
“I am pleased that since this time that DOL and ASG have been working together on national emergency grants that could be helpful to our people,” Faleomavaega said. “While the national emergency grant for our displaced cannery workers at Samoa Packing has not yet been finalized between ASG and the DOL, the DOL informed my office that its regional office in San Francisco preemptively and immediately reached out to ASG when the tsunami struck and informed the Governor’s office that ASG could also apply for disaster national emergency grants.”
“The DOL then assisted ASG in preparing and processing a disaster national emergency grant application, and yesterday’s announcement of $24 million was a result of these efforts. According to the DOL, of the $24,857,608 awarded, $8,285,870 is initially available to assist clean-up and recovery. These funds will be awarded to the American Samoa Department of Human Resources and will be used to create more temporary jobs to assist in the recovery efforts. Requirements of the NEG are as follows:”
- Provide disaster relief employment on projects that provide food, clothing, shelter and other humanitarian assistance for disaster victims, and projects regarding clean-up, repair of structures, facilities and lands within the affected area.
- The American Samoa Department of Human Resources may expend these funds through both public and private agencies and organizations engaged in such projects.
- Funds may be expended to provide employment and training to enable workers who will not be recalled to qualify for new employment.
- Individuals who may be offered disaster relief employment are people who are temporarily or permanently laid off as a consequence of the disaster, dislocated workers, and individuals who are long-term unemployed (as defined by the Governor). These individuals are typically eligible for six months of work. Admin requirements generally limit wages for any one individual to $12,000 but this can be waived.
The initial award will restrict the clean-up period to 6 months from the date of grant award, until there is a subsequent modification (e.g., fully documented plan or other request) that justifies a longer clean-up period. The modification process must come at the request of the Governor’s office, working with the regional office and will be reviewed by the National Office. These applications require verification that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has declared a disaster area eligible for public assistance, and American Samoa has been declared eligible.
“The DOL has also informed my office that it has dispatched two grant experts to American Samoa to assist ASG with preparing another national emergency grant for disaster unemployment assistance in addition to the $24 million grant which was just awarded. One of the grant experts has on-the-ground experience with Katrina and the other expert is also very knowledgeable in processing disaster national emergency grant applications.”
“Again, I want to thank Secretary Solis for her support and leadership, and especially for providing ASG with the assistance it needs in these trying times. Because of the support of DOL, $24 million is now available to create temporary jobs for our workers, and I am confident that with the help of the on-the-ground grant experts that DOL has dispatched to American Samoa, that additional funds will be provided for disaster unemployment relief. I remain hopeful, too, that the national emergency grant to retrain displaced workers at Samoa Packing will also be resolved soon,” Faleomavaega concluded.