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Kilili: NMI should submit periodic Compact Impact reports

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U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan has requested Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to submit periodic reports on the impact of Freely Associated States citizens’ migration to the CNMI under the Compacts of Free Association between the U.S. and the FAS which are Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia: Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Yap.

The Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003 or U.S. Public Law 108-188 appropriates $30 million in annual mandatory funding to help defray the costs of providing healthcare, education, and public safety services or infrastructure to FAS citizens residing in the CNMI, Guam, Hawaii, and American Samoa.

The federal government supplements this amount with an additional $4 million in discretionary funds annually.

The funding is allocated among the affected jurisdictions based on the number of FAS citizens residing in each jurisdiction.

The law also allows the governors of the territories or states to report regularly on the impact of Compact migration on their respective jurisdiction.

The CNMI’s fiscal year 2020 budget appropriates $2.3 million in Compact Impact funding for health, public safety, and education.

Gregorio Sablan

In a letter, Kilili told Governor Torres that the Compacts with the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia will expire in 2023, while the Compact with Palau will expire in 2024.

In preparation for the renegotiation of these compacts, Kilili said the CNMI should provide the federal government with an “up-to-date accurate understanding of the costs associated with the hosting of COFA migrants.”

Kilili said the CNMI government submitted Compact reports for fiscal years 2000 to 2003, and “none since” then unlike Hawaii which has provided numerous reports, and Guam which has reported every year since 2004.

He said both Hawaii and Guam have reported that the current levels of Compact Impact funding are “woefully insufficient to meet the demands placed on their affected jurisdictions by FAS migrant residents.”

The same is likely to be true for the CNMI, Kilili said, adding that verifiable data from the Commonwealth government would help verify the discrepancy.

In addition, an updated Compact Impact report from the CNMI would be “helpful in discussions to address the Census Bureau’s error in the enumeration estimates of COFA migrants to the four Pacific jurisdictions.”

Kilili said “because of previous Compact Impact overpayments to the CNMI due to the undercounting of COFA migrants in Hawaii, the Office of Insular Affairs plans to reduce future payments to the Commonwealth by roughly $727,210 for FYs 2021 to 2023.”

With updated information from the Torres administration, the CNMI could invoke the authorizations for increased Compact Impact grant funding, Kilili said.

He reiterated that a “report would be needed to garner support for additional funds now and especially when the U.S. Congress acts on the renegotiated Compacts beyond 2023.”

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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