Governor Lou Leon Guerrero (D) of Guam and several other local senators continue pressing for changes to the federal government’s budget proposal for the fiscal year of 2024 since it does not include any funding for the Compact of Free Association (COFA) migrants in Guam. COFA is an international agreement between the US and the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau, respectively. The compact allows the US to keep a military presence and to use native land, air, and sea for military operations. In exchange, the countries under the COFA receive financial aid from the federal government, and their citizens are eligible for employment, housing, healthcare, education, and other benefits in the US without visas.
Today, the majority of COFA migrants live in Guam, with Hawai’i holding the second-largest number of migrants. The usual $30 million of COFA funds that have been excluded from the federal government’s 2024 fiscal budget proposal were in the past given to Guam, Hawai’i, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands annually to provide financial assistance to COFA migrants promised in the COFA agreement. The $30 million of COFA funding was not the only federal funding excluded from the 2024 fiscal budget, as Guam’s usual $6 million of discretionary funds were also left out.
Guam alone receives $12 to $14 million of COFA funds annually. However, Guam senators are arguing that an increase in the COFA budget is needed due to the growing rates of COFA migrants on the island. In the past decade, the population of citizens from the Freely Associated States has doubled in Guam.
On July 22, Guam Delegate James Moylan (R), Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, and Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Carmen Cantor met to discuss COFA reimbursements. Moylan is currently working on extending Guam’s COFA reimbursements by one year with a proposed budget of $16 million.