James Gillan, however, says the numbers show that a significant number of those on welfare programs are migrants from the Freely Associated States.
Guam – Contrary to the perception that most people on welfare are just jobless people abusing the system, Department of Public Health and Social Services Director James Gillan says that’s not the case.
Gillan gave a presentation on how the Compact of Free Association or COFA has affected Guam’s public welfare programs and the numbers are staggering showing that for many of the programs, such as Medicaid, Medically Indigent Program, Food Stamp or the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Cash Assistance and Medicare, a significant portion of the beneficiaries are citizens of the Freely Associated States.
“We have about 56,000 people on Guam who are enrolled in one of our programs–either Medicare or Medicaid program,” says Gillan. “Of these two programs, as of 30 September, almost 33 percent of those two programs are people from the Freely Associated States. In our MIP program, which is 100 percent locally funded program, we have about 12,033 people in that program and of that 68 percent are from the FAS.”
Gillan says while the government is bound by COFA, the island is not getting the federal reimbursement needed to accommodate these numbers and this in turn has a ripple effect on the livelihoods of many of the migrants who come to Guam under the COFA.
“Everybody’s welcome. I think what the danger is, when you’re all leaving your homes for a better life and then you find that it’s not much better,” he says of the migrants to come to Guam from the FAS. “There are homes abandoned, there are almost these ghost towns because people have come to Guam for a better life and they’re here and they find that it’s not that much better.”
In fact, Gillan says there’s a common misconception that many of those under welfare programs are just jobless people abusing the system.
“I think the other thing that happens is when they’re here they have low wage jobs. As a matter of fact, most people on our SNAP program–whether they’re FAS or whether they’re local–most of them are working families or the elderly, where they just don’t make enough to get enough to get a nutritional food,” explains Gillan, “and until we pay decent wages and until we build this industry, then–people are ready to do, they’re ready to take–we can do some good things for our brothers and sisters in the FAS. We need to. Their ocean is overflowing. Taro can’t be grown because the earth is too salty, there’s too much salinity in the soil. They’re seeing their life and their livelihood just melt away because of, what do you call it, climate change, or whatever you wanna call it. It’s happening. It’s real.”
He adds: “But again the challenge for us is to get the best possible care for everybody and it doesn’t matter where you’re from.”
Again, Gillan was one of the presenters at the University of Guam’s Western Pacific Conference on Public Administration and Policy Solution.