Governor hoping to rectify COFA funds

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero. PNC file photo

Guam takes “major blow” with the possible loss of Compact impact funding.

Government officials are requesting to the Biden-Harris administration for the continuation of the COFA funds.

The Biden-Harris Administration submitted a Fiscal Year 2024 Budget proposal to the U.S. Congress, which did not include Compact Impact funding for Guam.

As a result, Guam, Hawaii and other jurisdictions in the Pacific that host migrants from the Freely Associated States will not receive the annual compact aid funds.

In the past two years, Guam had received $12.5 out of $30 million divided between Guam, Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana islands, and American Samoa.

The funds helped alleviate the impact of compact migration by citizens of the Freely Associated States.

According to the FY 2024 budget justification, the discontinuance is to work towards “allowing Compact migrants to become eligible for key Federal social safety net programs while residing in the United States, as a long-term solution to the financial impacts on state and territorial governments.”

Republican Sen. Frank Blas, in a letter to Democrat Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, said that the Biden Administration’s proposal to completely eliminate any reimbursement and discretionary funding opportunity, places the burden of the migrant services entirely on the Government of Guam.

He added that although menial, the $12-$14 million the island received annually helped defray costs incurred to provide health, education, social, and public safety services to Compact migrants.

Blas said he was “disappointed” in the Leon Guerrero-Tenorio administration’s acceptance of the decision to discontinue the funding.

The Office of the Governor of Guam on April 25 sent out their correspondence with the Secretary of the Interior, Debra Haaland; and the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken in regards to the negotiations on the COFA funds.

The governor, in a letter to Haaland, stated that she hoped to rectify the situation and ensure the appropriation will be added to the Interior Department’s budget, although “the sum is still woefully insufficient to cover COFA migrant costs.”

A major portion of the Compact Impact funds in Guam were used for the lease payments of four public schools that otherwise would have been funded by local money. The absence of the funds will be another burden for the General Fund.