Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo has introduced a bill that would change the way Guam is reimbursed for compact impacts.
Washington D.C. – Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo has just introduced legislation to deal with the longstanding problem of inadequate compact impact reimbursements from the federal government.
Whether it’s compact aid, medicaid, highway aid, or technical aid, Bordallo argues federal sums for Guam are not realistic. She says compact aid has come up short of local needs by millions every year, for decades, leaving a big hole in budgets like that of the Guam Memorial Hospital.
So now, after years of failed piecemeal fixes and the U.S. islands fighting each other for ‘table scraps,’ as one delegate put it last year, Bordallo has introduced more sweeping legislation.
“My bill would permit the affected jurisdictions to use the cumulative amount that they have spent to provide social services to COFA migrants, towards the non-federal portion of providing medicaid to their local residents. The bill proposes a new formula that would increase the federal medical assistance percentage for each of the affected jurisdictions,” said the Congresswoman.
Bordallo says the best solution would boost annual mandatory compact funding from $30 million to $185 million, total, as recommended by the GAO but acknowledges, the current budget climate makes that “difficult.” Guam gets some $16.8 million of the current $30 million.
So, Bordallo proposes what she calls, “more innovative fixes,” with less cost to taxpayers. “The bill would categorize elementary and secondary education-aged COFA students as federally connected students and make them eligible for impact aid. I understand the fiscal challenges that the impact aid community faces, and I am committed to working with them to address the effect this bill may have on them. The bill attempts to offset this effect by increasing funding authorization and ensures that we are not taking from one group to pay for another,” said Bordallo.
Bordallo’s bill also ensures that FAS migrants aren’t given priority over U.S. citizens, nationals and lawful permanent residents, for housing subsidies and it calls for an independent study on the current compacts up for renewal in 2023.
Bordallo who last year saved the islands from an Obama administration cut in discretionary compact aid, left open the possibility of amending compact impact reform to any Puerto Rico debt crisis bill, the house is expected to take up this year.
“Doing nothing” for Guam and other U.S. islands, she complained, “Would only welcome economic and security challenges down the road,” said Bordallo.
READ RELEASE FROM CONGRESSWOMAN BORDALLO:
Bordallo Introduces Compact Impact Relief Bill
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo today introduced legislation to address Compact impact in affected jurisdictions like Guam, Hawaii, CNMI, and American Samoa. The bill addresses four areas that would reduce financial impacts borne by local jurisdictions and provide relief to local governments for social services they provide to COFA migrants. The bill is cosponsored by Congressman Mark Takai of Hawaii.
- The bill establishes a new formula managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, and reviewed by the Department of the Interior, to increase the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). This change would permit the affected jurisdictions to use the cumulative amount that they have spent to provide social services to COFA migrants towards the non-federal portion of providing Medicaid to local residents. The provision builds on language included by Congresswoman Bordallo in the FY2011 National Defense Authorization Act that authorizes the Government of Guam to use unreimbursed Compact impact towards the purchase of the Navy’s water and wastewater system.
- The bill also categorizes elementary and secondary education aged COFA students as federally connected students and make them eligible for Impact Aid funding. Under current law, the federal government provides assistance to help offset the costs incurred by local governments who enroll federally connected children in their school systems. The bill addresses concerns of the Impact Aid community by authorizing additional funding for Impact Aid to account for estimated increases due to including COFA migrants. Congresswoman Bordallo introduced a similar provision in the 112th Congress.
- In addition, the bill addresses concerns raised by the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority and would give U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and lawful permanent residents priority when receiving federal housing assistance. The bill maintains COFA migrants’ eligibility to receive housing assistance but ensures that U.S. citizens, nationals, and LPRs are not displaced by limited resources when applying for these benefits. This is identical to a similar provision that Congresswoman Bordallo included in the Omnibus Territories Act in the 113th Congress.
- Finally, the bills commissions an independent study to research the viability of the current Compacts and make recommendations on policy alternatives moving forward. The study would provide strategic guidance toward renewing the Compacts in 2023 and ensure that they are administered in the best way moving forward.
“Today I introduced legislation to help address the impact of the Compacts of Free Association on jurisdictions like Guam, Hawaii, CNMI, and American Samoa,” said Congresswoman Bordallo. I continue to support the intent of the Compacts, but the costs borne by local governments for providing social services to COFA migrants are unsustainable. Congress must act to provide relief for the affected jurisdictions who have spent millions of local funds to support the Compacts and migrants.
“While I continue to believe that the best solution would be an outright increase to Compact impact—and I am proud to have cosponsored legislation to increase annual mandatory spending to the GAO recommended $185 million—I recognize that the current budget environment makes doing so difficult. The bill that I am introducing provides innovative fixes that would provide much needed relief to our local governments with little cost to taxpayers. This approach is a more budget-friendly way to address this daunting challenge, and I hope that it will help to address concerns that may be raised by fiscally-conservative Republicans.
“I thank Congressman Mark Takai of Hawaii for his support for this bill. I look forward to working with him to advance this bill through the legislative process.”
Said Congressman Mark Takai of Hawaii, “One of my first bills I introduced when I came to Congress, The Compact-Impact Aid Act of 2015, would increase annual funding for regional migrant costs from $30 million to $185 million. I am happy to work with Congresswoman Bordallo on this legislation to find additional ways to require the federal government to send states like Hawaii money to provide social services and lift the burden on our local populations. When the compacts were enacted, Congress was required by law to address adverse impacts on states and territories – it is time that we take action to do so.”