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Hawaii receives $15.8M Compact grant to cover the cost of hosting FAS citizens

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Honolulu– Hawaii Gov. Josh Green has accepted a $15.8 million Compact impact grant for fiscal 2023 to help defray the state’s costs of providing services to citizens of the freely associated states who live in Hawaiʻi.

“We welcome this generous assistance from the federal government in helping to care for our brothers and sisters from other Pacific islands,” Green said after accepting the grant from Carmen G. Cantor, Department of the Interior's assistant secretary for insular and international affairs.

“We are one ʻohana and as governor, I am committed to helping residents of Hawaiʻi receive the access to services they need. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw Pacific islanders disproportionately hard-hit, having the worst rate of infections, despite making up only 4 percent of our population,” Green said.

Cantor said the DOI is committed to working with Hawai‘i to mitigate the impact of the United States' separate Compacts of Free Associations with Palau, the FSM, and the Marshall Islands, whose citizens are allowed to enter and work on any U.S. soil without a visa.

In fiscal year 2004, Congress authorized and appropriated $30 million annually for 20 years to help defray costs associated with compact migration in affected jurisdictions, particularly Hawaii, Guam, and the CNMI. This funding ends this year, though migration to U.S. areas is permitted to continue and is expected to grow.

Cantor said the State Department of Human Services recognizes the barriers to accessing quality health care faced by the FAS community. In December 2020, the U.S. Congress restored Medicaid eligibility for U.S. residents from FAS nations.

Approximately 16,300 FAS citizens residing in Hawai‘i received medical insurance coverage or premium assistance in fiscal 2022.

“Hawai‘i is the beneficiary of added diversity and cultural richness that is brought by our Pacific island neighbors from these federal compact nations,” said Cathy Betts, director of the State Department of Human Services.

“This grant continues to further our commitment to providing access to vital medical insurance coverage. Many of our Pacific island neighbors from these nations, like other communities, suffer the effects of social drivers of health. This is why maintaining available access to medical insurance coverage is critical,” she said.

Eligibility for many of the safety net programs for these Pacific islanders was cut off, due to the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, which Hawaiʻi’s congressional delegation has been working to correct.

The COFA treaties were first signed into law by then-President Ronald Reagan and allowed citizens of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands to move to the United States without time limits or the burden of obtaining visas. The treaties recognize the responsibility the U.S. has to these nations for activities including nuclear testing from 1946 to 1958.

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