Compact-Impact Costs For Guam Hit $128 Million In 2013

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Health care, welfare represented $61 million of costs: GovGuam

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Feb. 6, 2014) – The cost of providing educational and social services to citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of Palau – collectively known as the Freely Associated States (FAS) – climbed to $128 million in 2013, creating the heaviest impact on health care and welfare, according to the Compact-impact report released by the government of Guam yesterday.

Last year’s total cost represented an increase of $3 million from $125 million in 2012.

"Health care and welfare accounted for the largest share of reported expenses at $61 million in 2013, up 15 percent from the year before," stated the report that was submitted to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

The report is part of Guam’s ongoing effort to recover the costs incurred for hosting FAS citizens who are allowed unrestricted entry into the United States and its territories under the Compacts of Free Association.

"In the years since the Compacts took effect in 1986, Guam has seen a substantial influx of regional migrants to the territory," said Lorilee T. Crisostomo, director of the Bureau of Statistics and Plans.

"While we embrace our neighboring islanders who chose Guam to seek better opportunities for education and work, the absence of total reimbursement to the government of Guam continues to impact our local resources and service to the community," she added.

According to the report, the total impact amount from 1987 to 2003, that has yet to be reimbursed, is $269 million. "The un-reimbursed costs include $178 million for education, $48 million for health, welfare and labor, and $43 million for public safety," the report states.

Sore spot

The Compact-impact issue has been a sore spot between the local and federal governments. With only $15 million in Compact-impact funds it receives every year, the government of Guam maintains it has been shortchanged.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz earlier criticized immigration authorities for their lack of awareness and subsequent failure to enforce a privision in the Compacts that mandates the deportation of "deadbeat" FAS citizens residing on Guam.

Citing a section of the federal regulations governing the Compacts, Cruz said "habitual residents are subject to removal if they have not been self-supporting for more than 60 days, have fraudulently received unauthorized public benefits, or are already subject to removal under immigration law."

Mostly affected by the Compacts are the health care and welfare funds.

The 2013 report showed the Department of Public Health and Social Services expended a total of $44.16 million for services to FAS citizens.

The 2013 report showed the Division of Public Health expended a total of $1 million for FAS citizens. For the period fiscal 2004 through fiscal 2013, the department has expended a total of $161.7 million.

Guam Memorial Hospital reported 8,931 FAS admissions, costing a total of $24.75 million; $15 million remained in arrears.

The Bureau of Health Care Financing incurred a total of $16.3 million in medical assistance provided to FAS citizens under the Medically Indigent Program and Medicaid.

Citizens under the Compacts received a total of $42.6 million through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs and the Public Assistance Program in 2013.

The cost for providing education services followed at nearly $47 million, with the Guam Department of Education expending a total of $42 million during school year 2012-2013. Public safety agencies reported expenditures close to $20 million in fiscal 2013.

For the past 10 years, the government of Guam expended a total of $682 million in accrued costs, the report said.

Other costs of education were absorbed by the University of Guam and Guam Community College.

On the public safety side, the Department of Corrections expended a total of $6.48 million housing FAS detainees.

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