Editor’s Note: Originally published by Pacific Daily News on Aug. 2, 2020.
The American family is broad and diverse. That’s the way it is supposed to be. Both Guam and my family’s homeland, Puerto Rico, became U.S. territories in 1898. During World War II, after Japan seized Guam on Dec.10, 1941, U.S. armed forces liberated the island on July 21, 1944, 76 years ago. Today, five U.S. territories enjoy the benefits of being a part of the U.S. family. Freedom, rule-of-law, democracy, and protection by the greatest military on earth are among the benefits that provide a foundation for prosperity.
As of July 2020, the Trump administration, with the support of Congress, has provided over $355 million in support for Guam through the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs. This includes funding for public safety, infrastructure, education, energy and public utilities, health care, and other key government services.
As we approach the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the War in the Pacific, we reflect on our fellow Americans in Guam who suffered wartime atrocities during the invasion of the Imperial Japanese forces. One project that was of special importance to the government of Guam, or GovGuam, and the Trump administration was resolving a technical issue in order to provide war claims compensation due to the greatest generation of Guamanians. While a bill authorizing compensation to survivors passed Congress in 2016, a technical glitch kept funds from being disbursed. The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs worked closely with GovGuam, Congress, Treasury, and Interior to successfully solve this problem.
Working closely with Guam’s leadership and Congress, President Trump also directed a historic amount of funding to support local efforts to respond to the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The President mobilized 42 federal agencies and provided millions of dollars in support to individuals in Guam, health care services, and schools. As part of that support, Interior’s OIA awarded GovGuam with over $12 million in CARES Act emergency relief funding to prepare for, prevent, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, OIA was able to use the CARES Act funding to support a non-profit organization located in Guam that works with Micronesian families in order to keep them informed, aware, and safe during the pandemic.
On top of the CARES Act funding, last month OIA announced several Technical Assistance Program grant awards to GovGuam totaling $2,660,642 to, among other things, support the modernization of public services and digitization of important records, to invest in essential equipment upgrades, to train key hospital staff, and to strengthen internal financial forensics in the territory. An additional award of $334,260 was awarded to the University of Guam to build and train a cadre of museum curatorial experts.
The list of grants includes:
• $1,219,950 to the Guam State Clearinghouse for the digital archival of historical government documents and historical records in the Guam Public Library System;
• $366,989 to the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority to train nursing and revenue cycle management staff;
• $334,260 to the University of Guam to develop professional curators;
• $310,000 to the Office of the Attorney General for financial forensics training;
• $309,828 to the Department of Land Management for IT upgrade, equipment, and supplies;
• $300,500 to the Bureau of Statistic and Plans to modernize Guam’s customs and import operations; •$95,175 to the Department of Education for internal audit and financial affairs training; and
• $58,200 to the Department of Public Works for a new CCTV system and barcode inventory system.
All of these projects will benefit the people of Guam in a multitude of ways and will enhance the capabilities and performance of the local government.
The federal government and Guam have a very important and mutually beneficial partnership. We are part of the same American family.
Douglas W. Domenech (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Douglas W. Domenech is the U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Insular and International Affairs.