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Feds asked to extend typhoon-recovery aid to COFA migrants on Guam

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Vice Speaker Tina Muna Barnes sought federal assistance on behalf of freely associated states migrants living on Guam, who are excluded from typhoon recovery assistance programs.

Barnes noted that Typhoon Mawar, which ripped through Guam last week, affected all residents of Guam, including FAS migrants, many of whom lost their houses during the devastating storm.

During an emergency session held on May 30, Robert Fenton Jr., administrator for Region 9 of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told senators that citizens of Palau, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia were currently ineligible for recovery aid.

“The issue for COFA migrants receiving recovery aid needs to be treated as an urgent situation, hence our office is submitting a letter to President Biden to request his consideration for the waiver of the provisions through an executive order,” Guam Delegate James Moylan said.

Moylan said prior to the storm, federal agencies recognized the concerns about COFA migrants’ ineligibility for recovery aid and thus assessed options to ensure they are not left behind.

"Introducing legislation is not conducive, considering the timelines that we are dealing with. We are hopeful that the DOI will be supportive of our endeavors, since the COFA discussions, hence the support of those island residents impacted by this federal provision, are under their jurisdiction," Moylan said in response to Muna Barnes' letter.

The letter was also sent to Assistant Secretary Carmen G. Cantor of the U.S. Department of Interior for Insular Affairs and Director Gretchen Sierra-Zorita of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, seeking guidance on potential avenues of assistance for COFA migrants.

Muña Barnes, chair of the federal and regional affairs committee, has reached out to key federal stakeholders, raising concerns about the disparity that left FAS migrants vulnerable.

The letter inquired about the possibility of utilizing discretionary funding within the Department of Interior to aid COFA migrants on Guam.

Alternatively, Muña Barnes questioned whether an amendment to federal law would be required to ensure the eligibility of COFA migrants for federal recovery aid.

She emphasized the urgency of the situation and expressed her hope for collaborative efforts to address this issue on behalf of the People of Guam and other host communities of COFA migrants.

“I understand that while Guam was faced with a super typhoon, Delegate Moylan has been working diligently in Washington to ensure all available avenues of support is made available to Guam," the vice speaker said.

" I am counting on his advocacy to help Guam’s most vulnerable – many of whom have gone above and beyond to keep commerce open in the aftermath of a disaster. This is our time to do right by our Micronesian brothers and sisters of the Blue Continent," she added.

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