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 House sets to vote on CIFA


By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Federal benefits proposed for migrants from the freely associated states who are living on U.S. soil are included in the $460 billion budget, which is scheduled for a House vote this week.

If enacted into law, the benefit packages will be pipelined directly to the citizens of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands who are domiciled in any U.S. jurisdiction.

The program is provided by the Compact Impact Fairness Act, or CIFA, which has been squeezed into the federal spending legislation.

“The CIFA, which we first introduced in the 116th Congress (2019-2021), would correct this omission in the 1996 welfare reform law and ensure FAS citizens legally working and residing in the United States are treated basically the same as any other legal resident non-citizen for these purposes,” Rep. Ed Case of Hawaii said.

Approval of the funding measure would restore eligibility for FAS citizens to receive public benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, Social Services Block Grants, education assistance, and other programs that they were restricted from accessing as part of the 1996 welfare reform law.

“There is also no reason that federal law should distinguish between FAS citizens and other legal resident non-citizens in eligibility for these key social safety net federal programs. FAS citizens are important members of our communities that contribute to our economies and deserve the same support from our federal government," Case said.

While CIFA is making legislative headway, the U.S. agreements with Palau, the FSM and the Marshall Islands under the Compacts of Free Association, or COFA, are still languishing in Congress.

“It is fundamentally unfair for our federal government to ignore its obligations under the Compacts of Free Association that are national in interest and scope and then impose the responsibility for providing basic services to FAS citizens on state and territorial governments,” Case said.

“The delay in providing Congressional approval is being used to sow doubt as to whether we can be trusted to stand by our commitments to our Pacific partners. The necessary legislative measure is fully vetted and ready for final approval in the House and should be approved now,” he added.

Rep. Uifa’atali Amata Radewagen said Speaker Mike Johnson informed her over the weekend that House leaders had reached a bipartisan agreement on the COFA bill.

“Under House rules, members must be given 72 hours to review the content of the legislation,” Radewagen said, “so we anticipate a vote for final passage on Wednesday.” 

“Most importantly, the COFA agreements send a clear message of U.S. commitment to the Pacific region and take a much-needed international strong stand for the ideals of democracy and freedom," said Radewage, chair of the Indo-Pacific Task Force.


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