- By Michael San Nicolas
The congressional report
Following is the full text of Guam Delegate Michael San Nicolas' first congressional address delivered before the 35th Guam Legislature at the Congress Building in Hagatna on Jan 6, 2020.
HAFA ADAI! Buenas Tatdes, Magandang Hapon Po Sa Inyong Lahat, Good Afternoon. Speaker Muna Barnes, Senators of I mina trentai Sinko na liheslaturan Guahan.
Governor Leon Guerrero and Lt. Governor Tenorio, Chief Justice Maraman, Island Dignitaries, Honored Guests, Friends and Family, and most importantly the People of Guam… Thank you for affording us the opportunity to deliver our Congressional Address today, which marks to the closest calendar degree possible exactly one full year of service of the Responsible Guam Team as Guam’s Delegate to the United States House of Representatives.
More importantly, today marks what we celebrate as the feast of the Three Kings, or what we know on Guam as Tres Reyes. Approximately 2023 years ago Jesus Christ was born, and today, the Feast of the Three Kings is recognized as the Epiphany of the Birth of Jesus Christ.
This day is known as the Epiphany because it is regarded as the day when mankind realized and acknowledged that Jesus Christ was God incarnate as man, with this realization captured in the presentation of gifts in homage by the Three Kings – a representation that Jesus Christ reigns supreme.
To be here today, delivering this first congressional address in our service, on the Day of the Epiphany in the Liturgical year, at the start of a new decade in this millennium, at the beginning of this New Year in the First Official Session of I Liheslatura in the year 2020, is a coincidence so profound it is in itself an epiphany.
An epiphany in its ordinary sense – and by contrast, today is most ordinary – is defined as “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.
An intuitive grasp of reality through something, such as an event, unusually simple and striking. An illuminating discovery, realization or discourse.”
I pray that on this day, as we recognize the epiphany of Christ as Lord and Savior, we, too, can through his grace reaffirm the Ministry that is public service, and in this Address invoke divine grace among all leaders present, that we may dedicate ourselves to His Ministry of service in this work that we do. In that respect, I must confess that in my own humanity, my initial temptation was to use this day as an opportunity to engage the hostility that we have faced over the past year with equally veiled hostility.
But we are not going to do that. Instead we will begin by saying “Peace be with You.”
As we began this new era of congressional service, we reflected heavily in the months leading up to our inauguration on what it means to be vested with this enormous responsibility by our people, for our people. We have dedicated much time, in the beginning, throughout, and to this very day weighing the realities of office with the perceptions that we have heard unceasingly over many years.
Before becoming your Congressman, I was very much aware of many of the perceptions that still linger to this very day on our island about the non-voting delegate that is Guam’s seat in the Congress:
Territories don’t vote on the floor and therefore are of little consequence;
Territories are generally smaller communities and therefore don’t hold sway over much larger jurisdictions;
Territories do not vote for President and therefore struggle to make an impact.
The list of preconceived notions that would emasculate our capabilities – before we even try - goes on and on.
Nowhere is it more evident than in the disbelief expressed at the onset of many undertakings: This isn’t going to pass committee…this isn’t going to pass the house…this isn’t going to be taken up by the senate…the loss of seniority is going to cost us dearly…we are going to start from the bottom and it will take us forever to make an impact…the Congress is divided we won’t get anything through…a sad fatalism that has seen itself repeat over and over and over.
And yet while these mantras try to drown us in immobility and fear, the ultimate realization that we are all Guam has, left us no choice but to refuse to surrender, and instead invoke every talent, tactic, and strategy we can, to overcome.
From the onset we decided that in order to break out of this self-contained mindset we needed to be willing to do things dramatically different. Different in style. Different in approach. Different in the belief that Territories in general and Guam in particular IS CONSEQUENTIAL. And in so believing we set out to situate ourselves in every circumstance we could manage to be able to affect the dialogue in the Congress in ways that showcases Guam not just as a seat at the table, but as a valued voice, an active player, a valuable asset in the national discourse.
Our first major decision was to set our sights even higher in the Committee hierarchy of the Congress, pursuing the highest available seat we could pursue in the highest-ranking committee we thought we could attain.
In the Congress committee assignments are based predominantly on seniority and political clout within the majority, with the most nationally influential committees sought after by the Members with the most clout. Historically these “A-List” Committees are:
Ways and Means
Energy and Commerce, and
With my background in finance and a highly tailored lobbying strategy we set out to secure an A-List Committee seat, not only for the opportunities they would present for Guam, but also for the opportunity it would present for us to engage with more senior and more influential members of Congress who also secure such seats. We set our sight on Financial Services as our primary Committee target, and we were able to achieve it.
Today Guam is the first Insular Territory to hold a seat on this Committee. This is the first time that Guam has had a seat on any “A-List” committee. It has been recognized by other Members of Congress, officials in the Administration, and key centers of influence that we have attained a seat on this Committee, immediately calling to attention the fact that Guam has in this 116th Congress risen to be an “A-List” player.
To further cement this new reality, we set to work immediately to actively contribute to the discourse and processes of the Financial Services Committee to showcase that we aren’t just a warm seat in a crowded room, but rather a valuable resource to meet goals and objectives. Our hard work continued to payoff, as we were shortly thereafter appointed by the Chairwoman and voted without objections to serve in the capacity as the Vice Chairman of the Financial Services Committee.
This achievement in itself has opened many doors and created many opportunities to advance issues critical to our people here at home. Now, we have very senior members, very influential members, calling US, pen and paper in hand, asking “what are your goals?” “What are you looking to get passed?” “How can we help YOU?”
I would like to thank Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters, the Democratic Majority of the Committee, and the Committee Staff Leadership for recognizing our talents and hard work to both appoint us to the committee and secure our appointment to the seat as Vice Chairman. I further wish to thank Ranking Member Patrick McHenry and the Republican Minority who both recognize the value of our contributions as well, and also have shown much grace in extending bi-partisan support for issues that benefit our community.
Perhaps the greatest example of direct benefit the people of Guam have in store on the Financial Services Committee is recently captured in our debate to re-authorize funding for the Export Import Bank of the United States, commonly known as the Ex-Im Bank.
The Ex-Im Bank is a federal government entity that provides loans and loan guarantees to United States companies that seek access to financing for import, export, or to facilitate the import and export of goods between foreign and domestic markets. Guam is incredibly well situated to facilitate imports and exports due to our geographic location to Asian markets, our capable port facilities, the unique perspective our people have of knowing what Asian goods would likely thrive in American Markets, and what American goods would likely thrive in Asian markets.
During the reauthorization debate in the Committee, I presented an amendment to create an Office of Territorial Exporting within the Ex-Im Bank that would dedicate specific personnel to work with Territories in the Pacific, and additional personnel to work with Territories in the Atlantic. This Office of Territorial Exporting will provide our local business community with direct expertise and support to access the $145 million in financing the EX-IM bank provides annually. This will not only open new markets for goods on Guam, it will also facilitate the transshipment of exports from other U.S. markets to Asia, and Asian markets to the U.S. with Guam as the transshipment hub for the flow of these goods.
This in turn will create jobs in the transshipment industry here on Guam, expand our ship repair industry, grow our warehouse and distribution industries, and provide goods to fill out- bound ships from Guam to help reduce the overall cost of shipping to Guam.
With our vessels no longer leaving empty, we can provide relief to shipping costs that are currently exacerbated by the Jones Act, which in all truth is incredibly difficult to repeal due to California and Texas interests. Rather than having to fight for a difficult repeal of the Jones Act to address shipping costs, we can work to reduce them ourselves by expanding our transshipment industry and tackling this with free market expansion.
Not only was this amendment supported by both our Chairwoman and Ranking Member, it is on the record as having unanimous support of the full committee, ensuring that we can pursue this opportunity as a stand-alone measure if necessary, with a high likelihood of unanimous support.
In light of this opportunity, I want to recognize and commend Senator Jim Moylan for introducing Bill 218-35 to provide local support for this opportunity. I strongly encourage I lehislatura to immediately entertain this measure through its legislative process, so that it may be
enacted and implemented for our local capacity to be enhanced to timely capture this impending opportunity.
On the subject of Senator Moylan, I also wanted to further recognize him for introducing Bill 104-35 to amend my local law that I enacted as a Senator here in I mina trentai quattro in 2018 with PL 34-103 to attract repatriated income through Guam with a tax incentive to encourage large multinational corporations to act.
Two years ago, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed to create a small window for a reduced tax on repatriated income. While this window has since closed it still has served the purpose of making repatriated tax incentives an attractive point of consideration, and the closing of the window only makes any available incentive all the more valuable. While I have been in receipt of a letter from Rev and Tax here on Guam acknowledging the closure of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act repatriation incentive, the repatriation tax itself still remains, and does so at the even higher standard rate.
With that, I STRONGLY urge I liheslatura to take up and pass Senator Jim Moylan’s Bill 104-35 to amend my original PL 34-103 to strengthen the law to seize this opportunity. I also STRONGLY urge the Administration to aggressively pursue this opportunity and actively engage the Guam Economic Development Authority to begin streamlining the process for making this work.
In my capacity as Vice Chairman of Financial Services, I have been able to secure meetings with the liaisons, industry representatives, and even the President of one of our Nation’s LARGEST INVESTMENT BANKS, informing them of this repatriated income tax incentive opportunity. They are very interested, and they have direct access to the decision makers in some of our largest industries interested in repatriation. If we can get this local law properly implemented and marketed, the benefit to our government coffers is so significant it almost seems impossible to believe.
Over 3 Trillion dollars is sitting overseas and represents the vast repatriation opportunity available. If one company were to repatriate just 10 Billion dollars, they would pay at a 37% tax rate $3.7 Billion Dollars in taxes. Our incentive with my PL 34-103 rebates 90% of this, or $3 Billion, 330 Million Dollars saved in taxes by the company, with Guam retaining $370 Million in tax revenues. And that is just 10 Billion in repatriation…0.33% of the total repatriatable income out there. Not even 1% of the available market. And 370 Million for Guam.
I urge everyone here to put aside partisan politics. Put aside personality politics. Put aside the politics of power and put into motion a massive opportunity that is ours to capture if we can just put the people of Guam first.
This isn’t just a sound byte in a speech. We have many distinct needs in our community that require our combined efforts to address, and many solutions co-exist locally and federally that are only strengthened when we stand together.
On my first day in office we set another insular territorial record by introducing our first Bill on our first day in office, it was the same day as our swearing-in, almost midnight, and approximately 30 days earlier than any insular territorial freshman in history. This Bill is deeply personal to me, as it is inspired by the young man who inspired me to run for Congress to get this done.
HR 208 is a Bill to extend the supplemental security income program, also known as SSI, to all eligible recipients on Guam. SSI is a federal program available in all 50 States, D.C., and the C.N.M.I., but not in any other territories, that provides hard cash to eligible recipients and their caretakers who have disabilities that make it difficult for them to get jobs. My son Kaleb, who is now 12 years old, is at home with his Auntie Faith and sister Keke and likely will be watching this when he wakes up in the morning. Kaleb has autism, and while our family does everything we can to support him and his development, his circumstances have nonetheless been a tremendous eye opener to the need for us to have SSI for our people on Guam who need it.
I would like to take a moment to recognize Senator Mary Torres, who introduced Resolution 77-35 expressing the support of the local government for the passage of HR 208. Thank you Senator Torres and Senators of I mina trentai Sinko.
HR 208 is another example of the unique approaches we are taking to solve Guam’s issues while also securing the support of other Territories for us to all move forward incrementally. For years, all of the territories that need SSI – Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands – have introduced legislation as a group to pursue territorial SSI.
The challenge has always come down to cost, with the largest Territory, Puerto Rico, ballooning the price tag into the billions due to their population of over 3 million people. To overcome this, we collaborated with our fellow territories to instead consider a snowball approach, where one of us at a time pursue SSI and in turn fold our support into the next territory, and the next, so we can gradually phase this in and make it more palatable in terms of cost. To do this, we worked extensively to build the necessary networks to make this plan of approach acceptable.
We re-secured for the first time in 16 years Guam’s membership into the Hispanic Caucus. This is a caucus – or group – made up of various congressmen and congresswomen who trace their roots to Hispanic descent. As a San Nicolas – or San NicoLAS as my caucus friends refer to me – we were able to make our case directly to our Latino brothers and sisters, with the
invaluable work and flawless Spanish of our Executive Assistant Elidio Pinero, while also building a strong team player concept by speaking up vocally for Territorial concerns. With Puerto Rico as the largest territory with the biggest population, it also has very large constituencies in various districts to include Florida and New York.
In short, securing the support of the Hispanic Caucus for HR 208 brings many members of Congress on board, and securing the greenlight from Puerto Rico for our snowball approach to Territory SSI in turn brings other Congressional districts and signals other Territories that our plan can work.
On multiple occasions we have stood up strong for Puerto Rico and our fellow Territories as they made their case for federal awareness of their struggles on many issues that we can relate to here on Guam. We are working closely with Puerto Rico to address the federal cockfight ban in Territories, co-sponoring Puerto Rico Congresswoman Gozales-Colon’s HR 1189 to repeal the provision that includes Territories, and HR 5436 to address the economic impact of the cockfight ban.
We have coordinated closely with Puerto Rico and our fellow Territories to address the Medicaid Cliff that my good friend Congressman Kilili Sablan has dedicated years to address, with Puerto Rico facing the biggest budgetary threat, and all of us today benefitting from the passage of HR 1865 that for Guam represents the largest direct relief of our Medicaid circumstances in history. Our matching for federal dollars has dropped from 45% to 17%, saving us millions upfront, and our access to federal dollars has increased from what would have been just $18 Million to $127 Million Dollars per year over the next two years.
Governor, this will provide millions in IMMEDIATE relief to the current budget, and I strongly urge this outcome be used to fund the critical infrastructure needs at the Guam Memorial Hospital, using healthcare savings to save healthcare.
In turn, these joint efforts have developed even stronger ties with Puerto Rico Congresswoman Gonzales-Colon who has signed on to HR 208 as a co-sponsor for SSI for Guam, as well as the Puerto Rico Administration, currently led by Governor Wanda Vasquez- Garced. Together, our work not only has brought more clarity to the shared struggles of Territories, it has won the trust of the Puerto Rican Government and the Hispanic Caucus for our plans for incremental expansion of SSI to Territories in HR 208, with Guam as the first in line.
It is with great humility and gratitude that we share with the people of Guam that our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico and the Hispanic Caucus have formally endorsed HR 208 with an official letter from Governor Vasquez-Garced, and an official letter supporting HR 208 duly adopted by the Hispanic Caucus at-large.
Our next steps include bringing the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus on board, both of whom have been approached, with my financial services Chair Maxine Waters formally bringing it to the Black Caucus, and myself working to secure CAPAC’s. We will further be reaching out to various non-profit stakeholders for letters of support and hope that we can energize the next steps of this legislation to bring it to a hearing in the coming year. The 2019 Guam Society of America Cherry Blossom Princess, now the lead staffer for our HR 208 efforts going forward, is Ms. Elima Tydingco Ahzi of our office.
Another measure we are working to move forward is HR 1713 which is a Bill to compensate military veterans for Agent Orange exposure on Guam. Recent headlines have reported that the chemical components of Agent Orange, known as dioxins, are showing up on some tests that have been recently conducted on our island. HR 1713 was introduced by myself and my Republican colleague from Florida, Congressman Gus Bilirakis, and is uniquely written to enable compensation for dioxin exposure without limiting it strictly to Agent Orange in its entirety.
I would like to thank Senator Therese Terlaje for introducing Resolution 71-35 to support our efforts to secure recognition of this exposure. Thank you Senator Terlaje and Senators of I Mina Trentai Sinko.
HR 1713 continues to have cosponsors rolling in, thanks in particular to the hard-work of advocates such as Retired Marine Sergeant Brian Moyer, Colonel Rob Maness, Commander John Wells, the Military Veterans Advocacy LLC, and the Agent Orange Survivors of Guam.
With co-sponsorship of HR 1713 continuing to surge, we intend to push the Committee for a hearing on this matter in the coming year as well, now that we have official reports of the presence of dioxin. The passage of HR 1713 will be significant, not only for the relief it will immediately bring to eligible veterans, but also as the acknowledgement we need that the federal government does in fact recognize the impact such dioxin has had on Guam, giving us the baseline we need to further expand the cause and effect relationship such exposures have had to the high rate of disease and cancer many of our people and families suffer from, not just veterans. Let’s get this done together, one step at a time.
As far as our veterans are concerned this past year has also been spent deeply analyzing the various challenges our veterans have been frustrated with over many years. I first want to begin by recognizing the many Veteran organizations we currently have on Guam, namely:
The Airforce Association, VVA 668, the Guam Veterans Commission, the Guam Chapter 3rd Marine Division Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Korean Vietnam Veterans Association, the American Legion, the Brotherhood of Vietnam Motorcycle Club, the Barrigada Veterans Association, the Korean War Veterans, VFW 2917, VFW 1509, the Dededo Veterans Organization, the Fleet Reserve Association, the National Association for Unified Services, and the Persian Gulf Veterans Organization.
Your efforts over all these years is the reason many of our support gaps have been filled for our Veterans, and it is only fitting that your service be recognized in this Congressional Address.
In speaking with many Veterans, it became very apparent that the source of much of their frustration originates from the struggle to get approval for or access to benefits and designations necessary for them to avail of programs to support their livelihoods and healthcare needs. The bottleneck we have identified starts at the very beginning of the process, with many Veterans struggling to figure out how to navigate the system on their own, what the parameters are that they need to meet, and what the best channels are to get the results they are looking for.
To address this broad-based problem, we did not want to further inundate the current veterans’ organizations who themselves are working overtime to advocate for our various veteran groups; instead we wanted to bring in reinforcements. At this time, I would like to recognize Mr. John Ananich, a veteran himself who believes that boots on the ground is what it takes to win. Mr. Ananich is spearheading the first formal creation of the Congressional Veterans Advisory Council, joined by fellow veterans Chief Petty Officer Ben Limos, Staff Sergeant Joel Valencia, and one of our very few Veterans Services Officers Ms. Tania Mendiola. This entity shall be a registered non-profit organization dedicated to aligning Congressional findings and resources with concrete solutions to the struggles of all of our veterans. John please rise and have your team rise to be recognized.
Mr. Ananich and his team have set their sights on addressing the severe shortage of Veterans Services Officers we have on island, who are certified specialists in assisting veterans with the application, processing, follow up, and advocacy of individual veterans and their entitled benefits.
Currently, Guam has just 3 certified Veterans Services Officers active, and with a veteran population of anywhere between 6,000 and 24,000 veterans, that means we have only one VSO for every 2,000 to 8,000 veterans. This impossible ratio is what is forcing many veterans to take on the process and the system on their own, causing much frustration and unnecessary delays so demoralizing many are just giving up. To our veterans, reinforcements are on the way. Mr.
Ananich and his team have already begun building a list of individuals ready to pursue official
Veterans Services Officer certification, some of you may recognize their names as long-time advocates for Veteran’s causes:
Mr. Frank Salas, Mr. Mike Mafnas, Mr. Dan Munoz, Mr. John Leon Guerrero, Mr. Robert Camacho, Mr. Barry Meade, Mr. Roy Gamboa, Mr. John Concepcion, Ms. Joleen Castro, Ms. Janet Garrison, Mr. Sean Riley, Ms. Linda Hernandez, and Ms. Marjorie Mesa-Hunter.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.
Ladies and Gentleman, these individuals are all volunteers. VSO’s are not paid positions. Ms. Tania Mendiola, one of our few currently certified Veterans Services Officers on Guam has helped so many of our Veterans out of the goodness of her heart. Mr. Ananich and his team are receiving no compensation for leading this organization. None of the volunteers are seeking anything more than to provide services for those who have served.
Our Congressional office will be working congruently with the Congressional Veterans Advisory Council to make the necessary arrangements to have volunteers officially certified as Veterans Services Officers. To our business community, we will be reaching out to solicit your support in getting these individuals certified and equipped, because every additional dollar in benefits and support we are able to get for our veterans is also another dollar of resources into our economy. I strongly urge any members of our community interested in joining this volunteer force to please contact our Congressional District Office so we can facilitate your contact with the Congressional Veterans Advisory Council and get you onboard.
Governor, Speaker, we need to do more. I strongly urge we enact local legislation mandating that every Government of Guam Agency and every Mayors office also have a designated certified Veterans Services Officer, and further allow for a few hours every year for all working veterans to seek support from a Veterans Services Officer as needed. While we have fallen behind over the years in meeting our Veterans needs let us resolve in this New Year to leave no one behind.
Working to meet the needs of our Veterans has been one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of this job. Our recent Congressional Delegation particularly to Hawaii and Guam with the Chairman of the Veterans Committee, Congressman Mark Takano, has made all of us very aware of the stark disparities between the services and support of those serving and those who have served. We are working closely with the Committee to bring Guam and all of the Territories to a greater place of parity and look forward to announcing legislative improvements in the coming year.
On Guam, our District office works as hard as we can to address veterans concerns, with one-third of all of our casework involving veterans. And while we strive for big picture solutions to the big-picture problems we have facing our veteran community, some of our most rewarding experiences have been what we were able to do for just one veteran. Joining us today, on this day of the Epiphany, is a family that just a few months ago wasn’t sure if their Dad was going to be here for the New Year.
In June of 2019, a friend of Mrs. Jennifer Berry sent me a message asking if there was anything I could do about a former serviceman who is now a federal firefighter, Mr. Mark Berry, who was fighting for his life and needed to be medevaced. The family looked everywhere, as Mark’s conditions worsened and no help in sight to cover the impossible cost to fly him out to save his life. We immediately had our team contact Jennifer, and we arranged to have her sign the paperwork we needed to be able to take a deep dive into his military service records and veterans status to find out if there was any way he could be helped.
As it turned out Mark’s veterans status was erroneously assigned due to a processing error by the VA, as it failed to take into account his combat zone deployment where he in fact earned the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. With our office working with the VA Honolulu Regional Office we were able to correct the error in Marks veteran status, making him immediately eligible to be Medevaced for the care he needed.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mark and Jennifer are here with us today. Happy New Year. During my first Townhall in March of last year I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Ed
Santos. Ed is another one of our veterans who needed assistance, requiring the use of prosthetics
in order to walk, and failing to receive the care he needed to be able to do so.
When I met Ed, he was in a wheelchair. The prosthetic he had was so poorly crafted it was literally cutting into the stump of his leg, forcing him to stuff socks into it just to be able to stand up when he needed to. Ed didn’t just come to our office looking for help, he sought it at first on his own, even being flown to Hawaii three times only to come back empty-handed or with a troubleshoot that didn’t actually work. Ed’s experience is unacceptable.
For so much effort to be made and so many resources to be expended only to result in him having to go to his Congressman for help, screamed of a total systems failure. And so, when the Hawaii Regional Director came to Guam with a six-person team we didn’t hesitate. Ed joined me in my meeting with her. He shared his story of all the times he went to Hawaii and got nothing. Director Gutowski and her team were stunned silent and made the commitment then and there to not only resolve Ed’s circumstances, but to reassure my office that we will never hear of
a horror story like this again. I am going to hold them to it. Ladies and Gentlemen, within weeks, Ed was flown to San Diego, properly fitted, and is with us here today. Happy New Year, Ed.
At this time, I would like to recognize your District Team, DCOS Mrs. Jennifer Winn, Casework Manager Kenny Leon Guerrero, and Ms. Vanessa Caraiso, MarielAnne Sacayan, Nelta Aien, and Mr. Joe Crisostomo – these are the people hard at work for all of our constituents, to include saving lives, and helping people to walk again.
The focus of our Congressional office in engaging the Regional Veterans Affairs Office has been and will continue to be on systems parity and the need for care on Guam comparable to what is available in Hawaii. While our service area population limits the full scope of what can be offered here on Guam, the ratio of those we service must yield at the very least a similar ratio of services.
With that, we are actively engaging Honolulu to provide dollar to provider breakdowns between Guam and Hawaii. If they service 30,000 veterans with X number of personnel then we should have at the very least one-fifth of that same service capacity with our proven 6,000 veteran service population, and as we prove more veterans in our area so too should our ratios improve proportionately.
And this is where our overall approach to yielding improvements for our Veterans comes together. As we increase the number of Veterans Services Officers with our volunteer corps in the Congressional Veterans Advisory Council, we should therefore increase the registered counts of Veterans actually needing services on Guam. As these counts improve our ratio of resources must increase and stay on par. As this ratio increases the number of available service providers, a reduction in wait times, and less frustrations should also ensue. To date we await the arrival of a pharmacist for our veterans, an on-the-ground scheduling staff, the expansion of the Community Based Outpatient Clinic, and concessions to allow for caretakers who travel to Hawaii to accompany a Veteran getting treatment. I would like to recognize Mr. Bill Cundiff for his work on this, and for all of our leaders in the Veteran community for staying the course. The groundwork is being laid to prove our case and your Congressional office will deliver results with our evidence-based approach.
Another area in desperate need of system improvement and evidence-based solutions is our role in the Compacts of Free Association. For decades our Brothers and Sisters in Micronesia have had a Treaty relationship with the United States that by design was supposed to help facilitate the growth and development of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, who together are known through this Treaty as the COFA States.
As part of this Treaty, COFA citizens are able to freely travel into the United States in pursuit of Education, Job opportunities, and Healthcare. On Guam we welcome our brothers and sisters, and the United States is supposed to assist us and other areas that host COFA citizens with Compact Impact monies that, logically, should cover any associated costs within the free- travel eligible areas – Education, Jobs, and Healthcare. That has not been the case.
Current compact impact resources in 2019 amounted to just $819 Dollars per COFA citizen on Guam, which is grossly inadequate if our cost to educate is $9,186 per student, or our cost to provide government healthcare is $2,995 per patient, or our cost for the Earned Income Tax Credit – EITC – which is paid to those who work but earn below a certain threshold, is
$2,800 on a per citizen basis.
To address this, my office is working on creative solutions to open up more resources on Guam that can be factored dollar for dollar with measurable compact impacts. If healthcare is an eligible criteria for migration, then COFA citizens should be eligible for Medicaid coverage. If jobs are an eligible criteria for migration, then the EITC of COFA citizens should be covered federally. If education is an eligible criteria for migration, then every COFA citizen of compulsory age should be covered federally.
These cost centers are not opaque, it just takes necessary data gathering in order to factor, and the COFA census numbers factored against the cost of healthcare, the cost of EITC, and the cost of education on Guam, less federal grants, should give us a much larger and provable impact figure. My office is in discussions with the Department of the Interior on structuring this approach, which will result in legislation introduced in the coming year to mandate the U.S. Government Accountability Office determine these metrics, and for the difference in current compact funding levels to actual costs offset with a credit to Guam’s portion of contribution to federal matching grants in education and healthcare.
With the recent passage of HR 1865 reducing our matching levels to 17%, and making
$127 Million Medicaid monies available, this refactoring and matching approach in healthcare alone would convert our current migrant healthcare costs locally funded at 100% under MIP, to 100% federally funded under Medicaid. Healthcare savings would be in the millions, education grants will be fully funded, and our migrant community will finally enjoy the status they deserve under the Compact of Free Association as budgetary assets, rather than liabilities.
Our role in the Compacts of Free Association and our relationship with the COFA States is so much more than just being a host community. We have a historic relationship with our island brothers and sisters that spans thousands of years, and today many of us can trace directly our relationships and the significance they hold in today’s Epiphany.
We have the service of a local Senator Clynt Ridgell, who is the son of a COFA citizen.
The recently promoted Staff Director of your Congressional Office, Ms. T’Nelta Mori, is a daughter of COFA citizens. And your Congressman, here today, would not be alive if it wasn’t for the people of Palau saving my grandmother Francesca Borja and the family of Mariano Borja from Japanese orders to exterminate the Chamorros in Palau during WWII.
Our histories and our destinies are so interwoven that we here on Guam have a duty to ensure that the relationship between Guam, the United States, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands is one that sees all parties thrive. With that, the upcoming implementation agreement of the Compact Treaty for the FSM and the RMI is due in the year 2023 – now three short years away. We must ensure that the provisions of this implementation agreement not only address the circumstances we have here on Guam as a host community, we must go farther and ensure that the communities of our brothers and sisters finally thrive under this relationship.
Consul General of Palau Vic April, Consul General of the FSM Theresa Filipin, and the People of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Guam’s Congressional Office is your Congressional Office.
The success of the region is more than about economics. It is critical that we thrive here in Micronesia so as to avert the subjugation that comes with seeking financial relief from other sources. In briefings I have been afforded we have learned that much of the African continent has been mortgaged to China, and Russia, who have used the resources of their state-owned enterprises and oligarch wealth to acquire port assets, power plants, and mineral rights in many countries.
These acquisitions are not outright, instead they are in the form of loans, concessions, and private industries that on the surface look like normal transactions. They are not. With this control, China and Russia impose conditions on those who avail of their terms that have consistently resulted in the compromise of sovereignty. This same threat has turned its attention to us here in the Pacific.
Recently, the Pacific nations of Kiribati and the Solomon Islands have formally established allegiances with China, who is following the World War II road map of imperial Japan and have in that vein begun making very strong overtures to the State Government of Chuuk. While we have little control here on Guam with respect to what happens in other countries, our role in Micronesia demands of us to be leaders in the fight against soft power pervasiveness intended to shift spheres of influence.
Part of this role involves our continued presence as the dominant military power in the region. One of the narratives we constantly face on Guam is that the presence of military personnel and military installations here on island is somehow an us versus them existence.
There are those who are adamant that bases should be closed or military realignments halted in order to reduce or contain the presence of the United States military on Guam. While I wholeheartedly agree that the net military occupation of lands should not increase, and that excess lands should be returned, I am also firmly convinced that the presence of the United States military on Guam is vital to the protection of our way of life.
With China following the footprint of imperial Japan in its expansion into the Pacific the historical significance of Guam during WWII is destined to see a resurgence in the years ahead. Inadequate defenses on our island in 1941 left us vulnerable to attack. It saw our island occupied. It saw thousands of our people die and thousands more suffer. And while the realities of war have us looking back today to seek redress for the sufferings of our war survivors and the lost lives of our loved ones, it is equally our responsibility to ensure that history does not repeat itself.
Make no mistake, Guam was not just attacked in WWII because it was a U.S. Territory.
Our strategic location commands that any belligerent power pressing forward into this region include Guam in its list of targets. If we are Freely Associated with another country, if we are independent, or even if we are a State, no political status will protect us from the tyranny of geography that will have us surely on the list of areas to occupy during times of war.
With that reality, we must in the context of a net zero policy of no additional land acquisition by the U.S. military, equally acknowledge that more defense presence, and more military power, will ensure that we are able to protect and defend 100% of this land that we call home, and project that power in defense of our brothers and sisters of the COFA States. In that respect, I have continued to strongly support the United States military realignment strategy of forces to Guam, not only for the economics that has also been a narrative we have heard, but more so, for the sake of security from Chinese expansion that is real and unrelenting. Folks, I have seen in top secret briefings the force projections… China is not messing around.
Consul General of Japan Izumi Seki, and Head of Mission of the Korean Consulate Lim Hee-soon, rest assured that your Guamanian allies, the Spartan soldiers of the United States Armed Services, stand ready to hold this front, and so also express our thanks for your country’s commitment to come to our defense. Arigato Gozaimasu, Khansahmnida.
In the recent National Defense Authorization Act passed into law, we have continued to ensure funding to maintain our security. Overall, $367 Milllion has been committed for military infrastructure spending in the current fiscal year to further enhance our defenses. Of this amount
Navy construction projects consist of $226 million, Airforce construction projects another $65 Million, Energy Resilience and Conservation projects $16.9 Million, and $19.2 Million for general defense projects. We will continue to work to ensure that our security here on Guam is of such magnitude that no repeat of the atrocities of WWII will occur undefended.
I would particularly like to thank Chairman Adam Smith and the Committee Staff Leadership of the House Armed Services Committee, Readiness Subcommittee Chair John Garamendi, and in particular my Freshmen Colleagues Andy Kim, Jason Crow, Deb Haaland, Veronica Escobar, and Lori Trahan who maintain an open-door policy for us to be able to channel our advocacy of Guam’s military security needs effectively.
I would also like to thank Guam Chamber of Commerce Chairman Joe Arnett, Chamber Armed Services Committee Chairman Mark Sablan, and the Members of the Chamber Armed Services Committee for their on-the-ground advocacy for Guam’s military security, and their pragmatic understanding of what is and is not possible. During meetings with the members of congress and members of the chamber we had a very candid discussion about the possibility of expanding the current language in the National Defense Authorization Act to extend H2-B Visa waivers for civilian projects.
Appreciatively it was shared frankly that an attempt to expand the language through the NDAA could have the adverse effect of closing the waiver off in its entirety. With the current relationship between the Joint Region Marianas and the Government of Guam seeking to align as many civilian projects with military purposes, the risk of a full closure of t