GUAM CONGRESSMAN UNDERWOOD

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CONGRESSMAN ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD Delegate from Guam U.S. House of Representatives Washington, D.C.

 

NEWS RELEASE May 3, 2001

SEEKS INCREASED FUNDING FOR
INTERIOR'S TERRITORIAL RESPONSIBILITIES

Congressman Robert A. Underwood today asked the House Appropriations Subcommittee to add another $5.8 million to the Interior Department's appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2002 and to beef up the funding for Interior's Office of Insular Affairs.

"I asked for additional money for three areas and I pointed out my concerns that, since the first Bush Administration, there has been a continual decline in Interior appropriations for Insular Affairs, indicating that perhaps there is not sufficient importance attached to insular funding," the Congressman said after delivering his statement. The three areas for which he seeks increases are $5 million more for Compact impact aid (on top of the annual $4.58 already mandated for Guam), $300,000 for the Marine Resources Pacific Consortium (or MAREPAC, a consortium of Pacific region representatives of institutions of higher education, resource management agencies, community groups and organizations committed to coastal and marine conservation and the sustainable use of marine resources), and $500,000 for the Guam War Claims Review Commission. The legislation creating the Commission has already passed the House and is currently awaiting action in the Senate. "We wanted to make sure that the appropriators understand that we expect it to pass and they need to prepare for it by making sure that it is funded," the Congressman said.

In his testimony on Compact impact assistance, Congressman Underwood pointed out that Guam is more affected by migration from the Freely Associated States than any other U.S. Jurisdiction. Although the Compacts of Free Association took effect in 1986, Guam did not start to receive impact aid until FY 1996. "In fiscal years 2000 and 2001, Guam received $7.58 million and $9.58, respectively. However, the Government of Guam expends between $15-$20 million annually to provide educational and social services for migrants," he said. "I request that Guam be adequately reimbursed by the federal government for the actual costs...A $5 million increase in funding, which should not be limited to capital improvement projects, should be the minimum level of funding that Guam is reimbursed. The Government of Guam should have the discretion to use federal funds for educational, health, and labor impact costs."

On the request for $500,000 for the Guam War Claims Review Commission, he said, "The commission will review the relevant historical facts and determine the eligible claimants, the eligibility requirements, and the total amount necessary for compensation. The commission will have nine months to report its findings to the Secretary of Interior and to the Congress. H.R. 308 authorizes $500,000 for the work of the commission, which is the amount of funding I am requesting for FY 2002."

On the declining funding for OIA, the Congressman said, "I find this trend disturbing, given the complexity in federal-territorial relations and the responsibilities entrusted to employees in the Office of Insular Affairs. That is why I find the President's budget request...woefully inadequate, and urge an overall increase...If the mission of the Office of Insular Affairs is to assist the territories in developing more efficient and effective governments, then I appeal to this Subcommittee to provide the Office with the necessary funds to fulfill its mission and to help Guam address the priorities that confront our communities.

The text of the Congressman's statement follows.

 

STATEMENT OF CONGRESSMAN ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD BEFORE THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE INTERIOR APPROPRIATIONS BILL FOR FY 2002

May 2, 2001

Mr. Chairman:

I ask for your consideration and support for a few funding issues important to the people of Guam as part of the Interior Appropriations bill for FY 2002 under the Interior Department budget, totaling at least $5.8 million.

These requests, which should be funded out of the Office of Insular Affairs' budget, would include an increase of at least $5 million for Compact Impact Assistance for Guam; $500,000 for the Guam War Claims Review Commission; and $300,000 to assist the Marine Resources Pacific Consortium.

Compact Impact Assistance for Guam

Increasing Compact Impact Assistance by at least $5 million is a top priority for the Government of Guam as the responsibility of supporting an unfunded federal mandate has placed a heavy financial burden on the people of Guam. The President's budget proposes $4.58 million in Compact Impact Assistance from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Covenant Grants. This is a decrease in funding of $5 million from FY 2001 and $3 million decrease from FY 2000 under the Office on Insular Affairs' budget.

Guam is affected more than any other U.S. jurisdiction by the unmonitored migration of citizens from the Freely Associated States in Micronesia that continues to have significant financial and social impacts on our island. A July 2000 report by the Office of Insular Affairs on the Compact Impact costs on Guam cited an Ernst & Young analysis which showed total costs for 1997 in Guam between $16.1 million to $17.7 million.

Since the Compact of Free Association was established in 1986, Guam only started to receive Compact Impact funding in FY 1996. During the FY 1996-FY 1999 period, Guam received $4.58 million annually from the Department of Interior's Office of Insular Affairs budget. In FY 2000 and FY 2001, Guam received $7.58 million, and $9.58, respectively. However, the Government of Guam expends between $15-$20 million annually to provide educational and social services for migrants from the Freely Associated States under the Compact agreements. I request that Guam be adequately reimbursed by the federal government for the actual costs incurred under the Compact of Free Association for FY 2002. A $5 million increase in funding, which should not be limited to capital improvement projects, should be the minimum level of funding that Guam is reimbursed. The Government of Guam should have the discretion to use federal funds for educational, health, and labor impact costs.

Guam War Claims Review Commission

I also request $500,000 for the Guam War Claims Review Commission. On March 13, 2002, the House passed H.R. 308, the Guam War Claims Review Commission Act. The bill establishes a five member federal commission under the direction of the Department of Interior to determine the benefit eligibility requirements for American nationals residing in Guam between December 8, 1941, and July 21, 1944, who suffered compensable injury during the Japanese occupation of the island in World War II.

The commission will review the relevant historical facts and determine the eligible claimants, the eligibility requirements, and the total amount necessary for compensation. The commission will have nine months to report its findings to the Secretary of Interior and to the Congress. H.R. 308 authorizes $500,000 for the work of the commission, which is the amount of funding I am requesting for FY 2002.

Marine Resources Pacific Consortium (MAREPAC)

Finally, continued funding of $300,000 for the Marine Resources

Pacific Consortium (MAREPAC) for FY 2002 is of great importance. MAREPAC is a regional consortium of Pacific Island representatives from institutions of higher education, resource management agencies, community groups and organizations. It was established to achieve the conservation of coastal and marine environments and the sustainable use of marine resources for the benefit of present and future generations of our islands. MAREPAC received $300,000 in funding for FY 2000 and FY 2001. I ask for the same level of funding for FY 2002.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I simply want to state that the Office of Insular Affairs has one of the smallest budgets at the Interior Department. Its funding has decreased over the last decade from $179 million in current appropriations for FY 1991 to $95.4 million in FY 2001. Although the decrease was partially attributed to the reorganization of the Office of Insular Affairs, including the transfer of employees to other offices in the Interior Department, the functions and responsibilities of the Office did not change.

I find this trend disturbing, given the complexity in federal-territorial relations and the responsibilities entrusted to employees in the Office of Insular Affairs. That is why I find the President's budget request of $92.7 million for FY 2002 for the Office of Insular Affairs woefully inadequate, and urge an overall increase in the Office's budget.

If the mission of the Office of Insular Affairs is to assist the territories in developing more efficient and effective governments, then I appeal to this Subcommittee to provide the Office with the necessary funds to fulfill its mission and to help Guam address the priorities that confront our communities. While my request of $5.8 million seems small compared to the other Member requests, I ask that you consider the significant impact such a level of funding would have for the people of Guam.

For additional information, contact: Cathy Gault at 671-477-4272

Washington office: 2418 Rayburn Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 Tel: 202-225-1188 Fax: 202-226-0341 Email: guamtodc@mail.house.gov 

Guam office: 120 Fr. Duenas Ave., Ste 107 Hagatna, GU 96932 Tel: 671-477-4272 Fax: 671-477-2587

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