J.Kalani English

New rivals for Compact money; Guam may soon have to compete with U.S. states

Marianas Variety
Wednesday, May 7, 2008

By Therese Hart
Variety News Staff

GUAM, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Hawaii compete for $30 million of Compact Impact funding each year, an amount that falls far short of the totaled amount for each. If this wasn't bad enough, they will soon compete with three other states for the same amount unless Congress lifts the cap. "So there's only $30 million in that pot a year. Right now, Hawaii applies for it, Guam applies for it, and CNMI applies for it," Hawaii Sen. J. Kalani English said. "This year, Arkansas, Oregon, and California are looking at applying for this money. This means that if the $30 million stays and other states apply, we all lose in the reimbursements," English said. Arkansas-based Tyson Chicken recruits Marshallese workers. The population is growing rapidly, and soon the Marshall Islands will open a consulate in Arkansas, English said. In Oregon and California, large companies realize there is an untapped labor workforce that does not require these companies to get B2-visas. "U.S. companies are now seeing the potential and are recruiting," English said. The large hotel chain the Four Seasons actively recruits Kosraean workers because of their good work ethic. "They don't smoke, they don't drink, they show up for work. They found out that they are very service-oriented people. They go there and they train them to be the best of the best," English said. This puts Guam, the CNMI, and Hawaii with having to compete with three other states. This would not be so bad if the federal government lifted the $30 million cap, English said. "The states see that there is an impact, and they look at the Compact Treaty and say we are entitled to this," English said. The other issue is that in 1997, Congress passed a law that restricted freely associated citizens from receiving federal aid such as food stamps, section 8 housing, Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and forced it on the states. English said that last year Hawaii paid over $91 million to support freely associated citizens and was paid back $9.9 million. As it is set up in the Compacts of Free Association Act, Compact Impact is left wide open. Basically it says that the federal government shall reimburse the states of the cost incurred. This includes states of the union, as well as its territories. "Guam, Hawaii, and the CNMI must come together on a policy basis so that we approach the Department of Interior as a unified front," English said. "We have the weapons, which are our members in Congress Đ Hawaii's members in Congress are quite powerful. Sen. [Daniel] Inouye, Sen. [Daniel] Akaka as well as Hawaii's house members support this effort. They're leading the charge for us, but we have to unite," English said. ##

© 2007 Marianas Variety

Original article URL: http://www.mvariety.com/?module=displaystory&story_id=11101

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