Amata Hails New Funds for American Samoa and LBJ Hospital Study in Senate Interior Appropriations Bill
Washington, D.C. – Tuesday, Congresswoman Aumua Amata welcomed two significant developments for American Samoa, at Amata’s request, in the Senate Interior Appropriations bill led by Chairman Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The bill, unanimously approved with a vote of 31-0 by the Appropriations Committee, includes a $718,000 increase for American Samoa Government operations, and mandates an official report to Congress on the needs of the LBJ Tropical Medical Center.
Congresswoman Amata had a series of discussions on American Samoa’s needs, including the impact of Cyclone Gita, personally with Chairman Murkowski in the lead-up to the 2019 Appropriations process, and welcomes these resulting important provisions to this major legislation. Chairman Murkowski leads the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, and also Chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
As a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Congresswoman Aumua Amata recently traveled through the Territories and Micronesia with Chairman Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, pictured here with the military flight crew.
“Chairman Murkowski has been a great friend of the Territories, and I appreciate the opportunity she gave me to discuss American Samoa’s needs with her in light of Cyclone Gita, and especially the long term ongoing needs of LBJ Tropical Medical Center,” said Aumua Amata. “The bill would create the second straight yearly increase in Interior funding for the American Samoa Government – a total of $968,000 since 2017 – and bring the federal support level up to $23,720,000.”
In the report language, the Senate Committee states its concern about the impact of Cyclone Gita on American Samoa’s economy and its ability to recover. Additionally, given the state of the Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center, the bill would direct the Office to provide information, within 90 days of enactment of this Act, to the Committee on the condition of the hospital; the estimated cost of building a new hospital; the estimated cost of completing all renovations necessary to modernize the hospital; and estimates of whether a renovated facility has sufficient capacity to meet American Samoa’s needs.
Congresswoman Amata with Senator Murkowski at the White House Picnic in 2017.
The bill recognizes that the Office of Insular Affairs’ most impactful spending is through projects to improve education, drinking water, sanitation, health, safety, transportation, reliability of power, improving availability of technology, including through fiber optics, and economic opportunity and sustainability, and directs the new $718,000 to be used on these priorities.
“Both the House and Senate bills prevent the cuts for American Samoa that were in the Interior Department budget request, which was the top priority,” continued Congresswoman Amata. “The Senate bill’s increase of $718,000 is $1,473,000 above the Interior request. I have already started informing my House colleagues of the importance to American Samoa of the Senate provision in any reconciliation of the two bills later this year, and I’m optimistic regarding the direction of the 2019 Appropriations.”
“Finally, thank you also to the Senate Committee’s Ranking Member Tom Udall of New Mexico,” concluded Amata. “I also appreciate the leadership of the House Subcommittee on Interior and Environment Appropriations, Chairman Ken Calvert of California and Ranking Member Betty McCollum of Minnesota.”