WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Department of the Interior has applauded the recent enactment of two appropriation bills that, among others, funding increases for key programs provided by the Office of Insular Affairs to insular areas and increases the number of foreign construction workers permitted to support disaster recovery in the CNMI.
The two measures are the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020, Public Law 116-94, and the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, Public Law 116-92.
The first one also provides temporary increases in Medicaid funding for the territories, increases the number of foreign construction workers in the CNMI to aid disaster recovery, and a $5-million payment to the Trust Fund for the People of the Republic of the Marshall Islands for Tax and Trade compensation provided for under the Compact of Free Association.
The second measure directs studies to be done on Runit Dome in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The dome contains hazardous nuclear waste from the atomic bomb tests the U.S. military did in the Marshall Islands.
“President [Trump] has signed budget and defense authorization legislation that includes several provisions important to our work and for the people in the insular areas,” said Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, Douglas W. Domenech. “We appreciate the President and Congress for their mindfulness and attention in providing funding and support for the U.S. territories and freely associated states.”
Additional detail on the highlights are as follow:
OIA BUDGET INCREASES: The OIA received a $2.2-million increase in its budget for fiscal year 2020. The OIA programs that received additional funding for fiscal year 2020 are Energizing Insular Communities, American Samoa Operations, the Maintenance Assistance Program, the Coral Reef and Natural Resources Initiative, and the Enewetak Program.
PERMITS FOR CONSTRUCTION WORKERS IN THE CNMI: The legislation directs Homeland Security to provide 3,000 additional permits for foreign workers in construction and extraction occupations in the CNMI for fiscal years 2020, 2021, and 2022 related to typhoon recovery.
TAX AND TRADE COMPENSATION TO RMI: An amount of $5 million for the benefit of the RMI to compensate for adverse financial and economic impacts as authorized by the Compact of Free Association, as amended, or Public Law 108-188. The $5 million is designated for deposit to the Trust Fund for the People of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The Trust Fund, as established under Public Law 108-188, will provide a source of income to the RMI government when direct grants under current law expire in 2023.
MEDICAID: The fiscal year 2020 budget included several important changes with respect to Medicaid for the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the CNMI, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The key change provides a temporary increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage from the statutory level currently set at 55% to the maximum of 83%, two figures both set by law under the Social Security Act. The change takes effect for the period beginning Dec. 21, 2019, and ending Sept. 30, 2021.
RUNIT DOME: The fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, also signed by Trump on Dec. 20, 2019, includes a provision requiring the Secretary of Energy to submit by June 2020 a report on the status of Runit Dome in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The report is to include 1) a detailed plan to repair the dome; 2) effects on the environment that the dome has currently and is projected to have in five years, 10 years, and 20 years; 3) an assessment of the current condition of the outer constructs of the dome; 4) an assessment of the current and long-term safety to local humans; 5) an assessment of how rising sea levels might affect the dome; and 6) a summery of bilateral interactions between the U.S. and the RMI about the dome. The report is to be made available to the public.
For more information on the Office of Insular Affairs, visit www.doi.gov/oia or follow Domenech on Twitter at @ASIIADomenech. (PR)
ON THE NET
– The full text of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (Public Law 116-94) is available at: https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/hr1865/BILLS-116hr1865enr.pdf
– The full text of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (Public Law 116-92) is available at: https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/s1790/BILLS-116s1790enr.pdf.