The Joint Economic Management and Financial Accountability Committee of the United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands convened for its annual meeting on Aug. 20, 2020, this time by video teleconference, and concurred to allocations totaling $34,159,131 in Compact of Free Association financial assistance for fiscal year 2021.
This assistance will be used primarily for the health and education sectors as well as infrastructure projects and maintenance related activities in the Marshall Islands.
As required under U.S. Public Law 108-188, the JEMFAC meets annually to review Compact budgetary spending proposed by the RMI government and concurs to funding allocations.
“Although the JEMFAC was not able to meet in person due to travel restrictions imposed because of COVID-19, we did meet by video teleconference and come to agreement for [fiscal year] 2021 allocations to the RMI government,” said JEMFAC chair and Office of Insular Affairs director Nikolao Pula. “Given the ongoing impacts of the global pandemic, we want to ensure that Compact assistance continues to provide fiscal stability and support to the RMI government.”
“I congratulate the teams from both governments that contributed to making this year’s annual JEMFAC meeting a success, especially in light of the continuing constraints our governments have faced with the ongoing pandemic,” said RMI Ambassador to the United States Gerald M. Zackios. “We thank the U.S. government for providing this essential financial assistance to support our core sectors of health and education, and I echo [Foreign] Minister [Casten] Nemra in stating that the RMI expresses our sincere gratitude to the U.S. government for its gracious support under the CARES Act to mitigate the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in the RMI.”
The JEMFAC allocated $34,159,131 in fiscal year 2021 Compact of Free Association sector grant assistance to the following sectors: $10,450,788 for education’ $7,917,891 for infrastructure; $6,967,192 for health; $2,725,899 for Ebeye special needs – education; $2,269,742 for Ebeye special needs – health; $929,849 Ebeye special needs – capital; $2,393,810 for Kwajalein Impact Fund; $251,980 for Kwajalein Environmental Fund; and $251,980 for Disaster Assistance Emergency Fund. These total $34,159,131.
The JEMFAC further resolved that the use of infrastructure funds would be authorized for the following capital improvement projects: Ebeye Elementary School (phase 3), Laura High School (4 classrooms), Rita Health Clinic, and Ebeye Hospital (plumbing/toilet repair). Use of the Kwajalein Impact Fund was authorized for the Mid-Corridor housing project (phase 2).
In his opening remarks, Chairman Pula commended the RMI government for keeping the coronavirus out of the Marshall Islands, while also expressing condolences to families whose loved ones have been impacted by COVID-19. He recognized the plight of Marshallese and other Pacific Islanders in the United States who are suffering disproportionately by population size, among the highest COVID-19 mortality rates in the United States.
The JEMFAC comprises five members: Pula (U.S. Department of the Interior); Nemra (RMI Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade); Alfred Alfred Jr. (RMI Minister of Finance); William Gallo (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention); and Suzanne Lawrence (U.S. State Department).
Certain provisions of the Compact of Free Association agreement between the RMI and the United States are set to expire in 2023. Bilateral discussions are underway related to the expiring provisions.
For more information regarding the JEMFAC or the Compacts of Free Association, visit the OIA website at https://www.doi.gov/oia/compacts-of-free-association. (PR)