COFA research could give GovGuam avenues to pursue
The federal government is shortchanging Guam on Compact of Free Association reimbursements. That's the message - although not a new one - from interns completing a public policy program with the office of speaker Tina Muna Barnes. Here's more.
Public Policy Institute interns presented research today on the cost of COFA.
The main takeaway? The Government of Guam says it has spent over a billion dollars on COFA costs, but Uncle Sam has only reimbursed us $143 million.
As the cost of COFA migrants impact on government services has continued to grow over the years, federal reimbursements have shrunk. This is partly because the feds don't agree with how GovGuam calculates COFA costs.
Part of the discussion centered on the lawsuit former Sen. Carlotta Leon Guerrero filed against the federal government about COFA impacts.
That case explains why Guam gets the short end of the stick when it comes to compact impact reimbursements, Tristian Quintanilla said.
"It ruled that Congress has no obligation to consider or act upon our annual COFA reports," he said. "In short, even if the problem of numbers and calculations is solved - we may have to accept the fact we may not be fully reimbursed."
Speaker Tina Muna Barnes says the research presented by the interns gave senators actionable items to pursue.
"We have at least two or three policies that we can move forward from the legislative branch to make sure that we try and get more resources for Guam," she said.
Earlier this year, the Guam Department of Education produced a "clean number," for educating students from the Freely Associated States. Although the presentation did not include that specific data for COFA impacts on education, KUAM News files show the cost in 2017 was $66.9 million. In total, GovGuam received just $13 million in compact reimbursements in 2017.
FSM Consul General Teresa Filepin agrees that FSM migrants bear the brunt of frustration for the federal government's unwillingness to reimburse Guam for the impact of compact migration.
"Guam is at the receiving end of an agreement between two nations, and Guam is part of the U.S., it's a territory of the U.S.," she said. "So if they're feeling the impact of this agreement, the federal government should come and support Guam's claims on the impacts COFA migrants are bringing onto Guam."
While the cost of migration of COFA citizens to Guam is a common conversation topic, Filepin said the contributions of FSM citizens should also be part of the discussion.
"We also need to look at what are the contributions from COFA migrants," she said. "They pay taxes, everybody that earns a paycheck on Guam pays taxes - Medicaid, social security - but how much of that is being included into the calculations?"
The public policy interns completed 180 hours under Speaker Barnes. Their graduation ceremony is tomorrow.