Muna Barnes to Feds: Please include COFA migrants in recovery aid

Vice Speaker Tina Muna Barnes

Vice Speaker Tina Muna Barnes is asking the federal government to qualify citizens of the freely associated states of Micronesia living on Guam for federal disaster assistance. These residents sometimes are referred to as COFA migrants. COFA is an acronym for the Compacts of Free Association, the covenants between the United States and the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

“During an Emergency Session held by the Guam Legislature on May 30, 2023, Mr. Robert Fenton Jr., Administrator for Region 9 of the Federal Emergency Management Agency informed the body that COFA migrants are ineligible for recovery aid,” Ms. Muna Barnes to Assistant Secretary of the Interior Carmen Cantor, Congressman Jim Moylan, and Gretchen Sierra-Zorita of the White House’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Her letter continues:

“As you are aware, COFA migrants on Guam are particularly vulnerable to typhoons, many of whom have lost their homes. Everyone living in Guam was equally affected by the devastating impacts of Typhoon Mawar. COFA migrants should be equally qualified for recovery aid so they can also return to normalcy.

“I am seeking your guidance on options of assistance that COFA migrants can avail of within the Department of Interior. Could discretionary funding within the Department of Interior be utilized to assist COFA migrants on Guam? Alternatively, given the urgency crisis on our hands, would an amendment to federal law be necessary to allow COFA migrants living in Guam be eligible for federal recovery aid? If so, would this be something that we all can come together and address for the People of Guam and other host communities of COFA migrants?

“I understand that the Department of Public Health and Social Services on Guam is seeking approval of emergency SNAP for everyone on Guam including COFA Migrants and I urge this also be moved forward and seek your support in facilitating such request.”

Ms. Muna Barnes is the chairwoman of the legislative committee with oversight of federal and foreign affairs policies.

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