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WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 10, 2000 – Marshall Islands Journal)---In his inaugural visit to Washington, D.C. as Minister of Resources and Development, John Silk participated in various meetings, including the annual meetings of the National Alliance of Business.

He also met with representatives from the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Labor, and key congressional staffers with federal programs responsibilities in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

Accompanying the Minister in these meetings were David Kabua, Chairman of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Board, Lanny Kabua, Executive Director for WIA, Ambassador Banny deBrum and Deputy Chief of Mission Mattlan Zackhras.

Discussions with the Departments of Education, Labor and State focused on the provisions of the 1998 U.S. law, which terminates the WIA program in September 30, 2001.

U.S. Government representatives confirmed that the Senate amendments to H.R. 2462 (Guam Land Return Act) include language to extend all federal programs, grant assistance and services of the United States to freely associated states citizens throughout the Compact renegotiation process and until Congressional consideration of a new bilateral agreement is in place.

U.S. federal agencies indicated that the new legislation extends RMI’s eligibility for the WIA program beyond 2001.

Silk and his delegation also took the advantage of their presence in Washington, D.C. to brief Congressional staffers about the positive impact of the WIA program on the community. The discussions emphasized new initiatives by the RMI Government to help implement national skill and vocational training in the country, with particular focus on women, youth and outer islands populations.

Senator Ted Kennedy’s office expressed interest in setting up potential partnership projects through some of the educational institutions or foundations in the Boston area specializing in aquaculture, water desalinization, renewable energy, and other economic development programs with the RMI. The Minister responded favorably to the proposals from Senator Kennedy’s office and suggested that an RMI fact finding mission to Boston might take place as early as next year.

"I was very encouraged to hear that there will be a budget increase this fiscal year for most of the federal education programs in the RMI," said Silk.

Congressman Robert Underwood from Guam later met with Minister Silk and delegation members and confirmed the passage of H.R. 2462 by the House by a unanimous vote. The Guam bill is expected to be signed by President Clinton within the week.

Congressman Underwood also said that the bill will restore the eligibility status of freely associated states citizens for federal housing benefits in Guam.

"I hope the Guam bill will help facilitate in providing a better format for the Compact renegotiations," he said.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail:  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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