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Federal reps assessing Compact impact

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Representatives from the Government Accountability Office are on island, as they continue a fact-finding visit to assess the adequacy of federal funding provided to states and territories providing services to citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia. The visit comes as the Bureau of Statistics & Plans submitted the Fiscal Year 2010 report on the impact of the Compacts of Free Association on Guam.

Any way you do the math, Guam is spending much more than it's getting to provide services to the citizens of the Freely Associated States. In fact, last year the territory only received $16.8 million in Compact impact funding, but Fiscal Year 2010 proved to be the most expensive year for GovGuam. In the latest report submitted to the Department of the Interior this month, it was noted that Guam's public sector in the last fiscal year spent more than $63 million to provide educational and social services to citizens from the FAS who migrated to Guam under the provisions of the Compacts of Free Association.

A breakdown of the total costs shows that the Department of Education spent the most, expending a total of $28.1 million.  Public safety agencies expended $17.1 million, while the Department of Public Health and Social Services reported $14.6 million in expenses with another $8 million spent for MIP and $4.7 million for Medicaid.

The cost for the government to provide these services has increased dramatically in the last seven years. Since 2004, GovGuam has spent more than $324 million. In Fiscal Year 2004 the impacts of the Compacts of Free Association was pegged at $31 million. That figure has now doubled with the latest report, reflecting the $63.7 million figure.

But the proof is in the pudding, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office has sent a group to evaluate the impacts.  Today they met with the Bureau of Statistics & Plans, the University of Guam, DOE and the Guam Memorial Hospital.

BSP director Tommy Morrison explained the meeting, saying, "They're basically here to address the impacts of the Compacts of Free Association and how the federal government is addressing and assessing the impacts of migrants on Guam and what other steps they can take to address it."

The visit was prompted by a request by several congressional leaders including Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo. Tomorrow the representatives are scheduled to meet with Governor Eddie Calvo and the Department of Revenue & Taxation as well as members of the 31st Guam Legislature.

Senator Frank Blas, Jr. says his message will be clear: $30 million in Compact impact funding split between four jurisdictions is significantly inadequate. He told KUAM News, "There's money that has to be paid because of what you owe and there's money that you're going to have to pay prospectively because we're going to have to provide these services, so U have to make sure two conversations are had instead of it being one sided being, 'OK, what can we do in the future for future services? Well, we also have money you owe us for services we provided in the past.'"

It's interesting to note that congressional leaders from the state of Arkansas and American Samoa also sought studies to be conducted in their respective jurisdictions, which could mean Guam, Hawaii and the CNMI will have to further split compact impact funding in the future. Said Sen. Blas, "$30 million cutting that even that much smaller is really not going to help this process."

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