3 Oct 2013

US congress standoff impacts on territories in Pacific

6:05 pm on 3 October 2013

The budget impasse in the United States which has necessitated a government shutdown, has impacted American territories in the Pacific.

Government employees whose salaries are funded with federal grants are being told to stay at home as there is no money to pay them.

However there are assurances that essential services won't be at risk while the shutdown remains in effect.

Bridget Tunnicliffe reports:

The governor of American Samoa, Lolo Matalasi Moliga, has ordered the shutdown of all non-essential operations of the government which are federally funded, in the wake of the government shutdown. Government employees whose salaries are funded with federal grants, of which there are around 1,900 have been instructed to stay home from today. American Samoa's US Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin says it's hard to tell how long the deadlock might continue.

"ENI HUNKIN: That seems to be the problem right now, is that there doesn't seem to be any letting up of any real compromise or settlement between the Republican majority and the House."

Some services have been exempted by the US President, which means the LBJ Hospital, the American Samoa community College and Department of Education will stay open. In Guam many of the federal employees that fall directly under the US Federal Government, have been furloughed. The Director of the Guam Governor's Washington DC office Jay Rojas says they are also expecting some impact on the national guard.

JAY ROJAS: Our national guard may have some positions that may be furloughed at this time especially if they are under what we call training status instead of federal status but we're still waiting to find out from a defence standpoint as to how high that impact is going to be.

In the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas our correspondent Mark Rabago says some federally funded employees will have to stop working. He says among those affected will be staff at the Department of Lands and Natural Resources, and the Division of Environmental Quality.

MARK RABAGO:Just for the DLNR alone there are over 40 employees, the American Memorial Park I think has nine employees, the DEQ we have no idea how many are federally employed. Some of the programmes that would be affected are the women's infant and children's programme of the Commonwealth Health Centre.

Mark Rabago says the CNMI Public School System is not affected as federal monies are forward funded so the Education Department's budgets were already earmarked well before the budget standoff.

Jay Rojas from the Guam Governor's Washington DC office, says there is hope for people who won't receive pay for hours not worked.

JAY ROJAS: In most cases during the previous shutdowns there is consideration that is done for those employees that have been furloughed provided that they are permanent employees that are still in good standing. Then when the budget does actually get approved and the government does reopen up, then consideration is made for the hours that they have lost but there is no guarantee.

Jay Rojas says there will be no risk to essential services and there is mandatory spending on programmes such as social security retirement payments.