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DOI applauds renewed economic assistance for Compacts of Free Association

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Source: DOI press release

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Department of the Interior on Monday released a press statement celebrating the finalization of amendments to the Compacts of Free Association, which would provide 20 years of new economic assistance. The $6.5 billion of assistance is critical for economic stability and quality of life for the people of the freely associated states (FAS): the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and the Republic of Palau.  

Congresswoman Uifa’atali Amata along with the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia had earlier welcomed the signing by U.S. President Joe Biden.

“Strong ties between the United States and the Pacific Islands form the foundation of our engagement and presence in the Pacific. The provision of 20 years of new economic assistance sends a clear signal of the United States’ commitment to the long, historical relationships we have held with the freely associated states,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “This critical funding will continue to support the governments of the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau on their path to long-term economic self-sufficiency across key sectors, including the environment, health, education, private sector development, and infrastructure. 

The Compact of Free Association packages will provide economic assistance of $3.3 billion to the FSM, $2.3 billion to the RMI, and $889 million to Palau over the span of 20 years through 2043. The funding will provide support for basic public service delivery, such as health and education, improve infrastructure, and bolster the health of the Compact trust funds previously established for each of the FAS. Congress also included $634 million over the next 20 years to ensure the continued provision of U.S. postal service to the FAS.   

“With their passage, the U.S. Congress has recognized the importance of our Compacts of Free Association relationships by providing the resources necessary to move towards bringing the economic assistance provisions of the amended agreements with the freely associated states into force,” said Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Carmen G. Cantor. “This law provides critical support to our friends and allies in the Pacific and bolsters both the commitments we have made in the past and relationships we want to keep in the future.”

In its passage, Congress also addressed long-standing challenges for citizens of each of these FAS who choose to reside lawfully in the United States, as provided for under the Compact agreements. The law restores eligibility for key federal public benefit programs for FAS individuals while they are lawfully present in the United States – an important long-term solution to the financial impacts that some FAS communities may have on U.S. state and territorial governments. Restoring access to federal public benefits will address gaps in needed social services for families and have a significant impact on the communities where they reside. The law also ensures that the federal government provides, without significant additional administrative costs, a significant portion of the financial burden currently being borne by state and territorial governments of the FAS. Benefits and compensation from the federal government will be available to FAS individuals in whichever state or territory within the United States that they reside.