American Samoa

American Samoa: Gov. Togiola says FEMA verified more than 250 homes destroyed in disaster, 183 want to self-build, so far; 703 temporary worker hired, need 600 more

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(UTULEI) - Governor Togiola Tulafono today on his weekly radio program "Mo Lou Silafia" on KSBS-FM 92.1 gave an update on Permanent Housing, National Emergency Grant and Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits.

PERMANENT HOUSING

Governor Togiola said the American Samoa Government has been working closely with the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA and its federal partners in the recovery efforts, including providing for housing needs, in the aftermath of the Sept. 29 earthquake, tsunami and flooding.

"Over 8000 families have registered for FEMA assistance. FEMA has approved over $20 million in grants to help with home repairs, temporary housing, personal property, funeral and transportation expenses," said Governor Togiola. "FEMA is exploring the possibility of providing permanent housing to some of the people whose homes were destroyed. FEMA has verified more than 250 homes were destroyed."

Governor Togiola said to date, 183 individuals / families have received financial assistance to rebuild their own homes, totaling more than $5.3 million.

"In addition to that, we have more than 50 individuals / families who have expressed interest in this type of program," said Governor Togiola.

Governor Togiola said, as a reminder, anyone involved in rebuilding, repairing or other type of construction of homes is asked to abide by the American Samoan floodplain ordinance as well as land use and building permit requirements.

NATIONAL EMERGENCY GRANT (NEG)

Governor Togiola reported that there are now 30 certified worksites, with 16 worksites pending. There are 1,329 temporary disaster worker positions, with 703 of those positions being filled. More hires will be placed at worksites next week.

Any public or private non-profit organization who is interested in becoming an eligible worksite may contact the NEG office at the Fagatogo Square Building or call 633-3360 / 3361 / 3362.

Governor Togiola said recent developments and guidance from US Department of Labor may make it possible to extend the NEG program beyond the original 6 months.

"This means the program may be extended for job creation but the 6 month lifecycle for the NEG participant may not necessarily be extended beyond 6 months. We are still waiting for further guidance," said Governor Togiola. "We are waiting on approval for a higher rate of compensation for all NEG participants. If that is approved, the adjustment will be retroactive for all NEG hires."

DISASTER UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE (DUA) BENEFITS

Registration for DUA Benefits has ended. The last day was last Thursday, December 17th. The review of all completed applications is ongoing. First payment of benefits is expected to be distributed to "Eligible Applicants" by the end of the month.

"I wish to thank all of our federal partners and our local public and private non-profit organizations who have become certified worksites for participating in this program," said Governor Togiola. "This is a big boost for the morale of our island community as well as for eligible individuals seeking employment, and we are all grateful for this great assistance."

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