$16.5 MILLION IN ASSISTANCE TO U.S. TERRITORIES

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By Benhur C. Saladores

WASHINGTON D.C.---(June 29, 1999 - Saipan Tribune)---As recommended by the Senate Appropriations Committee, the proposed budget to the Office of Insular Affairs for FY 2000 amounted to $67.3 million -- slightly down from its requested spending level of $68.1 million, but an increase of $1.1 million from the FY 1999 allocation.

Out of the overall appropriations, about $16.5 million has been set aside for territorial assistance, which is $1.1 million above the last enacted level.

The Committee has provided increases above the enacted level of $145,000 for fixed costs, $500,000 for the coral reef initiative and $250,000 for control of brown tree snakes.

An increase of $255,000 has also been provided for OIA, of which $101,000 is for one full-time employee to work with the State Department on re-negotiation of Compact financial assistance.

For American Samoa, the committee has agreed to retain the $23.1 million operations grants provided under the current fiscal year budget, while the Pacific territory also will receive an additional $10.1 million in construction funding.

The Northern Marianas will be given $5.6 million for the CIP grants, on top of the $2 million for labor, immigration and law enforcement initiatives, while Guam will keep $4.6 million in impact aid, instead of the $10 million as initially proposed by the Clinton Administration.

The committee believes that if additional funds are needed for Guam or other governments regarding the impact on insular areas of the Compact with Freely Associated States (the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau), it should be addressed during the re-negotiation of the agreement later this year.

The amounts deferred from CNMI construction grants will now be provided to the Virgin Islands on a one-time basis which is intended to assist the U.S. Caribbean territory in meeting its mandated infrastructure needs.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

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