By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Vice Speaker Tina Rose Muña Barnes penned a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urging Congress to use the budget reconciliation process to fund Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for Guam and other U.S. territories.
Muña Barnes argued that based on a recent Congressional Budget Office score for the initiative, expanding the eligibility to SSI to all the territories outweighs the cost.
The letter was also co-signed by her colleague Sen. Mary Camacho Torres.
“I sincerely thank Chairman Grijalva, Vice Chairman Killili Sablan, and President Biden for proudly supporting the belief that Americans, regardless of where they live, deserve equal access to critical social services” Muña Barnes said. "We have come this far, and we must continue to tell the Guam story in the halls of Congress, I commit to not giving up on this important endeavor.”
The call for expansion of SSI is a joint effort by federal and local policymakers and more importantly, advocates such as the attorneys general of Guam, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia, as well as Neil Weare of Equally American, Guam Attorney Rod Jacob and countless other legal scholars and NGO’s.
Earlier this year, Muña Barnes was invited by Grivalja to provide testimony on the Insular Cases and their impact on Guam.
During her testimony, she highlighted the plight of Katrina and Leslie Schaller. Katrina and her twin sister, Leslie, both live with myotonic dystrophy, which severely inhibits muscle function and other critical aspects of daily life.
While Leslie is able to live independently in Pennsylvania due to the aid she receives from SSI, Katrina is ineligible for these same benefits simply because she lives in Guam.