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Feds note assistance increase needed

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - It's one thing Governor Eddie Calvo and members of the 31st Guam Legislature agree on: Guam needs more money in Compact impact funds from the federal government. A visit by the Government Accountability Office may be the first step in the island ultimately receiving that increased funding.

Staff from the GAO continued their rounds today gathering information on the use of Compact impact funds on Guam. Director of International Affairs and Trade David Gootnick met with Governor Eddie Calvo at Adelup, with the latter's chief of staff frank, Frank Arriola, saying the island's chief executive stressed the need for additional assistance. "There are issues that we need to work with the federal government to get the cost that our local government and the community has taken on."

Gootnick then headed to the legislature to meet with senators. Senator Frank Blas, Jr. has stressed that the amount awarded to the territory in the past is insufficient, telling KUAM News, "Our un-reimbursed costs are above over $501 million; my discussion with them is not just prospectively but how much we need to increase the annual amounts. Obviously $30 million to be spread amongst four jurisdictions - possibly seven jurisdictions - $30 million is not going to go a long way."

Gootnick concedes that the $30 million was never meant to be stretched so thin. "The $30 millions was not intended to specifically cover all costs associated with the Compact migrants it certainly was well below what the affected jurisdictions had reported prior to the amended Compact."

He says the amount was appropriated back in 2003 when the Compacts of Free Association was amended. "At that time there were fewer Compact migrants here and at that time of course the cost of providing health and education services was lower, so all of that has understandably increased over the past decade," he explained.

Speaker Judi Won Pat, who hosted the meeting the GAO staff says the Legislature wanted to stress where they believe the accountability lies. She stated, "We wanted to make it clear that this is in no way of course to say that we do not welcome our Micronesian brothers and sisters, but more importantly this is an obligation of the United States and that they need to address this."

Gootnick and his staff from the GAO where sent to the region under the request of Guam congressional delegate Madeleine Bordallo and seven other member of Congress, but according to Won Pat what the result of the visit will be remains to be seen. "We did ask the question whether once they have provided all this information, will they make some recommendations to Congress? And they are not quite sure yet in terms of what they will do as far as what they will find," the speaker continued.

The visit has included meetings with heads of varies agencies including the Department of Public Health and the Department of Education as well as the Guam Chamber of Commerce and members of the local Micronesian community.

Staff from the GAO will next head to Saipan to continue their fact-finding mission, then onto Arkansas where a large population of Marshalese citizens reside. Gootnick says the will then synthesize the data collected and expect to issue a full report by the fall.

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