Blas: CIFA doesn’t clear out outstanding tabs for Compact impact owed to Guam

Frank Blas Jnr

The U.S. federal government still owes Guam for the costs incurred by the territory on services provided to migrants from the freely associated states over the past 20 years, Senator Frank Blas Jr. said. 

According to the most recent Compact Impact Report, the costs of hosting citizens of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands reached US$1.6 billion as of 2021. Figures from the last three years were not currently available. 

“Obviously that’s still very much unresolved,” Blas said. 

The newly signed Compact Impact Fairness Act, or CIFA, restores federal benefits to FAS migrants living on U.S. soil, including Guam. 

The Department of the Interior said CIFA lifts the burden on host communities since the migrants will now get direct access to federal welfare programs. 

Blas, however, said the new policy should not waive the U.S. government’s outstanding dues from the past two decades. 

“It was the federal government itself that said that it would reimburse or it would provide funding for Guam or other affected areas based on the impacts of the migration,” Blas said. 

The Compacts of Free Association allow FAS citizens to live, work and study in any U.S. jurisdiction. Prior to CIFA, host governments shouldered the costs of health care, education, public safety and other services provided to the regional migrants. The U.S. government appropriated $30 million every year to defray the associated costs. 

Guam received between US$14 million and US$16 million from annual appropriations that were shared with Hawaii, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa. 

Guam received a total of US$258.9 million from 2004 to 2023. 

“It did not compare to what we were spending annually to be able to provide the services to the migrants,” Blas said. 

The 20-year compact impact funding expired on 30 September, but the Biden administration did not include a renewal of the reimbursement provisions. 

Blas is urging Governor Lou Leon Guerrero and Guam Delegate Moylan to nudge the federal government into settling its outstanding debts to Guam. 

“In any year that they said they provided reimbursements, whether it be the direct appropriation of the funding or through grants or other services that are available,” Blas said, “the United States government continues to fail and continues to fail in being able to reimburse Guam, in this case, for providing these services.”

“So, I’m hoping that this CIFA is not the end result or is their answer to what the effects have been over the last 20 years. So, that said, the CIFA itself, if you look at it, there are a number of things that they now provide to COFA migrants,” he added. 

Under the new law, FAS citizens may apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, Social Services Block Grants, education assistance, and other programs that they were restricted from accessing as part of the 1996 welfare reform law. 

Some federal programmes, however, are not available in U.S. territories. The SSI programme, for example, to not apply to U.S. citizens living in Guam, Puerto Rico and American Samoa, while SNAP is not available in the Northern Marianas. 

“How do you think the community will feel when the FAS migrants—  it’s no fault to them—are eligible for SSI when we as American citizens under the flag don’t get it,” Blas said. “You can say the same thing about SNAP in the CNMI.” 

Last week, Guam Delegate James Moylan said no assessment has yet been made on the amount of CIFA benefits that would be funneled into migrant communities. 

“Federal entities are still ironing out the details,” he said. 

He clarified the “primary confusion” surrounding SSI. 

Since the SSI program is not available on Guam, Moylan said, FAS migrants living on island would not be eligible for this benefit, 

“The House minibus appropriations measure must still pass in the U.S. Senate to eventually determine the true impact of CIFA and what it brings to our financial coffers,” Moylan said