Heavily Dependent On Federal Support, American Samoa Stands To Lose From Trump Budget
EPA, local Commerce Department, Territorial Energy Office among agencies likely to be hit
By Fili Sagapolutele
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, March 20, 2017) – Several federally funded programs that US President Donald J. Trump, is proposing to defund or reduce for the new fiscal year 2018 — which commences Oct. 1, 2017 — will impact American Samoa.
Among the ASG entities expected to be impacted are the Territorial Energy Office (TEO), which is 100% federally funded, the Environmental Protection Agency and the local Commerce Department. Trump’s proposal also eliminates funding to independent federal agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts (Arts Council) and the Legal Services Corporation.
Trump’s 62-page “America First- A budget blueprint to make America Great Again” summary was released last Thursday with final proposed budget details set to be out in May this year, according to the White House.
The budget blueprint has already attracted both criticism and support across the country including the U.S. Congress where several congressional members have told national news organizations that the “purse strings” rest with Congress — meaning Congress has the final say when it comes to money allocation.
One big question for the U.S territories, including American Samoa, is whether Trump plans to increase, reduce or eliminate any funding — since there were no specific details in the budget blueprint — for the U.S Department of Interior that allocates funds to the territories.
For FY 2017, specific annual allocation to American Samoa from DOI is: $22.75 million for government operations and $9.61 in Capital Improvement Projects (CIP).
Of the total ASG budget for FY 2017 of just over $380 million, about $104 million comes from federal grants.
Below are just some of the federally funded programs in American Samoa affected by the Trump proposal that Samoa News has been able to identify, based on the budget blueprint.
Among federal programs administered by the Territorial Energy Office are: the State Energy Program (SEP) that provides 100% funding for all TEO operations including Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that helps low income households by subsidizing a part of the customer’s electricity bill; and the Weatherization Assistant Program (WA) that assists low income families by making their homes more energy efficient.
Under Trump’s budget proposal, the WAP and SEP, which are programs under the US Department of Energy will be eliminated “to reduce federal intervention in state level energy policy and implementation.”
For the LIHEAP program, which is funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, it will be eliminated as well. “LIHEAP is a lower-impact program and is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes,” the Trump administration says.
ASG — COMMERCE DEPARTMENT
Among the federal programs, administered by the Department of Commerce, is the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG), which the Trump administration says will be eliminated as it funds services that are duplicative of other federal programs and is also a limited impact program.
According to DOC’s first quarter performance report for FY 2017, CSBG provided a total of $976,675 in funding, which was allocated to 11 non-profits and public agencies.
Groups, which have received CSBG funds in the past years and/ or continued funding in FY 2017, include Galea’i Poumele Cancer Foundation, and the ASG Summer Youth Employment Program, according to the DOC performance report covering the period of Oct. 1 - Dec. 31, 2016.
Another federal program, overseen by DOC is the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), which is funded by the US Housing and Urban Development (HUD), but Trump wants it eliminated in 2018. Since its inception in 1974, the block grant has spent over $150 billion in federal money, “but the program is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results,” the federal budget proposal says.
The DOC’s FY 2017 first quarter performance report shows that among the local projects funded with CDBG money is $91,974 for the Fagatogo Square Playground, which opened last December; the Rotary Club’s community swimming pool in Tafuna, for which CDBG has paid out a total of $830,939; and two new school vans for Manu’a that have been ordered (there is no $ amount info on how much CDBG contributed to van purchases).
According to the HUD budget proposal, the Trump administration promotes fiscal responsibility by eliminating funding for a number of lower priority programs, including the “HOME Investment Partnerships Program”. It also says that state and local governments are better positioned to serve their communities based on local needs and priorities.
ASG has been the recipient in past years of development funds from the U.S Economic Development Administration (EDA), and Trump’s proposal eliminates funding for this agency, “which provides small grants with limited measurable impacts and duplicates other federal programs, such as Rural Utilities Service grants at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
Under the US Labor Department, Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) funding will be eliminated because the program “is ineffective in meeting its purpose of transitioning low-income unemployed seniors into unsubsidized jobs” the Trump proposal states.
For American Samoa, the SCSEP program Title V, provides funding to employ, as part time workers, senior citizens with the Territorial Administration on Aging (TAOA) — whose FY 2017 budget shows $975,550 from this federal program.
Samoa News was unable to obtain more information on whether the elimination of program funding, also includes the “Title III hot meals” program for seniors administered by TAOA.
Since last Thursday, news outlets across the country have provided extensive coverage on elimination of funding for the “Meals on Wheels”, a program that delivers food to homebound seniors funded by the CDBG program. This program is not available in the territory.
The budget proposes to eliminate or reduce State and local grant funding by $667 million for programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that are either unauthorized by the Congress, such as FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program or that provide more measurable results and ensure the federal government is not supplanting other stakeholders’ responsibilities, such as the Homeland Security Grant Program.
For that reason, the budget also proposes establishing a 25% non-federal cost match for FEMA preparedness grant awards that currently require no cost match, according to the budget proposal, adding that this is the same cost-sharing approach of FEMA’s disaster recovery grants.
FEDERAL INDEPENDENT AGENCIES
Trump’s proposal eliminates funding to several independent federal agencies, but provided no specific explanation. The budget blueprint identifies the agencies by name and includes:
- Legal Services Corporation (LSC) — which provides funding to the American Samoa Legal Aid and other independent entities in US states and territories.
- Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) — from which Office of Public Information (KVZK) is one of its national recipients, with $638,500 for FY 2017.
According to CPB online public records, American Samoa received in 2014 (the latest online records) a total of $699,104 for KVZK-TV.
The CPB also provides funds to Public Broadcasting System (PBS), which has affiliated television stations across the country, and KVZK-TV has the right to broadcast PBS-TV programs in American Samoa.
- National Endowment for the Arts — that provides annual funds for the American Samoa Arts Council whose FY 2017 budget includes $286,330 from a “grant” — but didn’t identify the grant by name.
There is some good news in the proposed Trump budget:
For the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, the budget proposal provides robust funding for critical drinking and wastewater infrastructure. It includes $2.3 billion for the State Revolving Funds; and $20 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program.
However, the budget discontinues funding for, among other things, the Clean Power Plan; and also eliminates more than 50 programs such as Energy Star.
USEPA is looking at a 31% cut in its budget with President Trump’s Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney saying those programs are "a waste of your money,” last week during a White House press conference.
"Regarding the question as to climate change, I think the President was fairly straightforward. We're not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.' So that is a specific tie to his campaign," Mulvaney said.
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN & SOCIAL SERVICES
For DHSS, the budget proposes $6.2 billion to serve all projected participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
The budget proposes to continue support of farmer-focused research and extension partnerships at land-grant universities and provides about $350 million for USDA’s flagship competitive research program. (The American Samoa Community College is designated a Land Grant College and would have access to these funds.)
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