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Migrant funding request stuck in Congress

COFA

Migrant funding request stuck in Congress

Legislation that Guam and Hawaii representatives proposed to raise federal government funding to help the islands pay for public services to regional migrants remains stuck in committee.

It’s been eight months since the introduction of H.R. 854, also called the Compact Impact Aid Act of 2015, which proposes to raise the annual funding for Guam, Hawaii, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa from $30 million to $185 million.

The bill awaits consideration in the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs of the Natural Resources Committee, according to Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo’s office.

“In the meantime, I continue to work with the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Mark Takai of Hawaii, to move the bill forward,” Bordallo said in a statement.

The federal government and Guam are hundreds of millions of dollars apart on actual funding assistance and the cost that the government of Guam states it needs to get reimbursed for.

In February 2015, the Department of the Interior reported to Congress that over a 10-year period, Guam claimed $682 million in cumulative costs associated with regional migrants’ health care, public education for migrants’ children, public safety costs for those who get in trouble with the law and other public services.

Over that same period, the federal government provided $128 million, according to the Interior Department report.

Over the past several years, Guam has received $16.8 million a year, or more than half of the annual $30 million funding from the federal government for regional migrant costs in Guam, Hawaii, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa.

Guam has reported escalating costs in providing public services to the migrants from the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau, according to Interior. They’re allowed entry into the United States under their island nations’ Compact of Free Association agreements with the U.S. government in exchange for U.S. access to the island nations’ waterways, land and airspace for defense reasons.

The number of Compact migrants who have moved to Guam increased 84 percent from 9,931 in 2003 to 18,305 in 2008, according to Interior’s report to Congress.

Guam hosts more than half of all 32,635 regional migrants who have left their home islands for better education, health care and better economic opportunities, according to the report.

Hawaii had 12,215 regional migrants in 2008, a 67-percent increase, from five years earlier, according to the Interior report.

The Northern Marianas saw a 47-percent reduction in the population of its Compact migrants, to 2,100 in 2008, according to the Interior report.

American Samoa only had 15 Compact migrants in 2008, according to the report.

Interior’s report states the level of federal funding for affected jurisdictions needs to be re-evaluated given the rising impact on Guam, Hawaii and other affected jurisdictions.

Improving the quality of life for citizens in the FSM, the Marshall Islands and Palau would help stem the tide of regional migrants, Interior stated.

In addition to seeking additional funding, Hawaii Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, Takai and a few other lawmakers introduced legislation in May to reinstate Medicaid eligibility for Compact migrants.

In 1996, Congress passed a law that made migrants from Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands ineligible for federal Medicaid dollars.

Without federal dollars, Hawaii spends an estimated $40 million to provide health care to these Compact families, the Hawaii lawmakers stated.

“In the history of our country, many migrant groups have had growing pains and it is our duty as a nation of migrants and immigrants to welcome new people and their families to our communities,” Hirono said in May.

Hirono also recently visited Guam and discussed issues Guam and Hawaii share, including compact migrants and defense spending.

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