Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that in a letter dated January 29, 2008 he has informed Governor Togiola that the U.S. House of Representatives has agreed to include the Territories in the economic stimulus bill. The complete text of Faleomavaega’s letter, which was copied to Senator Inouye, the Lieutenant Governor, the Fono, Treasurer, and the Director of the Tax Office is included below.
Dear Governor Togiola:
I am writing to inform you that the House has agreed to include the Territories in the bi-partisan stimulus package put forward by the Democratic Leadership to jump-start the U.S. economy. Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo and I made a request of Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, and Chairman Charles Rangel of the House Ways and Means Committee to include American Samoa and Guam in the stimulus package and to provide language which would ensure that the U.S. Treasury, rather than our local treasuries, would pay out the rebates which may be owed to our residents. The Leadership agreed to our request, and we have made the same request of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Chairwoman Donna Christensen also made a request as did Puerto Rico. The language included by the House will cover all of us whether we have a mirror tax code, or are frozen, as is the case with American Samoa. While this legislation must still be agreed upon by the Senate and signed by the President, if it does move forward as proposed, it is my understanding that the agreement for individuals would include an income tax rebate and a child credit increase.
For American Samoa, the U.S. Treasury would send a check of an estimated amount and ASG must have a plan approved promptly to disburse the money quickly. By enclosing a copy of the House language and bringing this to your attention prior to this legislation being signed into law, I am confident that your office and the Fono will be able to do what is necessary to make sure our people receive the rebates and credits they might be owed.
Given that many of our people live below the poverty level and our per capita incomes are well below the national average, making these tax rebates and child tax credits available for our residents without our local treasuries being responsible for the pay out is critical to protecting our fragile economies.
While some have been critical that our people are receiving the same rebates as those living in the U.S. who pay federal income taxes, the fact is our men and women fight and die for our country, too. We are also confronted with the same, if not worse, economic challenges facing the U.S. economy including high prices for gas, food, and shelter. The economy is affecting all of us but, as a result of this economic stimulus package and the new direction our country is taking, we remain hopeful that we can turn this Nation around and make America great again.