Guam – An investigative arm of congress known as the U.S. Government Accountability Office or GAO is on Guam researching the impacts of the compacts of free association that allow citizens of the Federated states of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands to freely migrate to the U.S.
Eight members of congress including Guam delegate Madeline Bordallo requested that the GAO come to Guam to study the impacts of the compacts of free association.
Tuesday, they met first with Governor Eddie Cavlo. GAO Director of International Affairs and Trade David Gootnick explains that this is not the first time the GAO has been out here for this. “Ten years ago GAO did a similar study and as part of the review over time since the amended compacts of free association many more migrants have come to these jurisdictions so I think they were interested in us taking a fresh look at the issue,” said Gootnick.
Currently congress gives $30 million dollars a year for compact impacts which is then split up between Guam, Hawaii, and Saipan. They spent three days in Hawaii and three days on Guam and will soon fly to Saipan. After Saipan they will fly off to Arkansas.
After the legislature met with the GAO this afternoon Speaker Judi Wonpat explained that Arkansas, California and Oregon have been requesting compact impact funds as well. “We wanted to make it very clear that this is in no way of course to say that we do not welcome our Micronesian brothers and sisters but that this is an obligation of the United States and that they need to address this and the $30 million dollars right now that is being appropriated is very insufficient in light of what Hawaii is actually doing and what they are recommending and of course when others are now wanting to reach into that pot,” said Speaker Wonpat.
Senator Frank Blas Jr. has sent numerous letters to various federal officials both elected and otherwise requesting a re-imbursement of $400 million dollars to GovGuam for the money it has spent as a result of the compacts. Today however he provided an updated calculation that estimates the total amount to be $501.2 million dollars. “Look federal government you have had our reports we’ve been faithfully providing these reports since 2004 at least since 2004 you’ve had since that time the opportunity to have the discussion and to be able to make the contention of how we came about with these figures you haven’t said anything,” said Blas.
The Republican senator says that if EITC, Labor, and Section 8 costs are included then the total of un-reimbursed compact impact costs is actually $1.2 billion dollars. Gootnick told PNC that they will provide the governors office with the opportunity to comment on the draft of their report during the summer before issuing the final draft to congress sometime in the late fall.