Guam – Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka has introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate that would restore certain public benefits to citizens of the Freely Associated States (FAS) who reside in the United States.
The “Medicaid Restoration for Citizens of Freely Associated States Act” was introduced Tuesday in Washington D.C.
It would re-establish Medicaid eligibility for citizens of the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) nations living in the United States, including Guam.
Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) has introduced a similar bill in the House of Representatives, cosponsored by Representatives Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii), Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa), and Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam).
In announcing the legislation, Senator Akaka is quoted on his website as saying that “It is time for the federal government to take up some of the financial responsibility that until now has been carried by the State of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa by restoring public benefits to FAS citizens.”
Fellow Hawiian Senator Daniel Inouye, and New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman are cosponsors of the bill.
An article posted on canadaviews.ca quotes Senator Inouye said: “The United States allows Compact Migrants to freely enter, reside, and work here. These migrants have added to the culture and diversity of our islands. But since 1996, the federal government has neglected to provide funds to support their basic needs — social services, education, or healthcare. Last year alone the State of Hawaii paid about $150 million to subsidize the Compact Migrants, and this sum is only expected to rise. We are all aware that government funding of any kind is difficult to come by, and my hope is that this legislation will ensure that states like Hawaii are not unfairly burdened with an initiative started by the federal government.”
And Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie is quoted as saying: “The State of Hawaii can no longer absorb the rising costs caused by the agreement between the U.S. and nations of the Compacts of Free Association. The federal government needs to take responsibility for providing adequate support to offset the costs incurred as a direct result of increased migration.”