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Some 260 new hires added to
U.S. emergency work program

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Dec. 1, 2009) - An additional 260 temporary workers are expected to start work this week under the federal National Emergency Grant (NEG) program, while, starting yesterday, only one registration site remains open for the Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program.

Speaking on his weekend radio program Gov. Togiola Tulafono said a little over 1,000 temporary jobs and 36 worksites have been identified so far under the NEG.

He urged those who have been hired to "take up this chance to work," and noted that it’s taking a while to put temporary workers on jobs due to the processing of paperwork, which is done in accordance with federal regulations.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR) Evelyn Vaitautolu Langford said yesterday that the Department of Human Resources received 1074 requests for temporary jobs and a total of 485 people have been hired already, with 260 additional workers to be employed this week.

Langford said the first group of workers, which started working between Nov. 2-19, received their first paycheck on Nov. 27. The hirees went to the Department of Public Works, American Samoa Power Authority and the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Togiola, on his radio program, said one of the delays in getting the paychecks out was that the departments had used the wrong account number in their departments to pay these individuals.

Samoa News received confirmation yesterday that the American Samoa Government had to come up with a 25% matching local funds for this program and the American Samoa Government identified the funding source for the matching funds more than a week ago.

As to the number of temporary workers hired in the private sector, or non-profit agencies — who qualify under the NEG program — the GAR said 40 workers have been hired in one of the private non-profit agencies. She did not identify the agency.

Asked if there are any problems encountered by DHR with the NEG program, Langford said one of the major problems is incomplete work plans submitted by agencies.

"If an agency submits a work plan that is not in compliance with the requirements of the grant program, it creates a delay in sourcing their requirements for their temporary hire positions," she said. "Every work site must be certified by meeting certain criteria outlined in their respective work plan."

"Each agency is required to receive an information briefing on the work site requirements and criteria for submitting their work plan before their requests for temporary hires can be filled," Langford pointed out.

On his radio program, Togiola said DHR is still working on identifying more worksites so people can be hired for the program.

He further repeated "so there is no mistake or complaints later on, this NEG program is temporary — for six months only."

However, the Governor said the American Samoa Government is working with federal counterparts for the possibility of extending this program up to 12 months by way of extending the money allocated for a person’s salary.

For example, he says if the job is allocated 10,000 tala [US$4,000] for the six-month period, maybe the feds could extend this amount of money to cover 12 months. He said the goal is to continue to employ residents while other efforts are being made to secure permanent jobs.

For the DUA program, Langford told Samoa News that as of last Saturday (Nov. 28) there were 3,378 visits to the three DUA centers with 843 completed applications.

But beginning yesterday (Nov. 30) there will be only one DUA center — the Fagatogo Pavilion, she said.

"With the DUA program, some of the problems encountered have been with the eligibility of applicants for this benefit," the GAR explained. "The program provides financial assistance to individuals whose employment or self-employment has been lost or interrupted as a direct result of the earthquake-tsunami disaster on September 29."

Langford, who is also the Director of Human Resources, said the success with the NEG program has been due to the efforts of the DHR staff and cooperative work by the local Department of Homeland Security, Department of Treasury, Department of Public Safety and the Office of Planning and Budget.

Adding to the success of both the NEG and the DUA programs was the recent visit by two U.S. Department of Labor representatives.

Their early visit with the launch of both programs "was extremely helpful to ensure absolute conformity with the fiscal, administrative and operational requirements in accordance with the provisions of the grant program," said Langford.

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