COFA/FSM CITIZENS IN HAWAII

According to the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services, in 2016

• There are about 1,150 COFA citizens who are homeless statewide. The majority, 933, are on O'ahu -- and many are believed to be in Kaka'ako

• There are about 1,531 COFA citizens receiving the TANF or TAONF (Welfare) monthly cash benefits to qualifying families for food, clothing, shelter, and other essentials. 1,176 Non-US citizens (excludes COFA citizens) and 15, 795 US citizens.

• There are 319 COFA citizens receiving the GA (General Assistance); 465 Non-US Citizens (Excludes COFA citizens) and 4,815 US Citizens. The GA program provides temporary economic assistance to individuals who are temporarily disabled and unable to work.

• 179,138 individuals are receiving the SNAP program (formerly the Foodstamp program). Unfortunately, they didn’t list the breakdown of citizenship or COFA citizens.

• There are about 6,196 low-income public housing units in Hawaii, 4,876 on Oahu. Again, no numbers on the number of COFA citizens served

• 358, 946 Hawaii residents are covered under the Med-Quest program; no breakdown on number of COFA citizens under this program.

Hawaii Officials say it's difficult to determine exactly how many COFA migrants live in Hawai'i, because they can travel back and forth without a visa or green card -- but current estimates are more than 12,000. I believe there is a 2017 census or count on Micronesians in Hawaii & US Territories but I haven’t seen the results yet. Perhaps someone can help us out on the latest count or census.

At the request of the Office of the Governor of Hawaii, a graduate student consulting team from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs spent Fall of 2016 studying the provision of health care to residents of Hawaii originating from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.

Unfortunately, their study finds or confirms that accessing adequate, affordable health care in the United States remains a challenge for COFA islanders.

Some of their recommendations include:
• Having the US Federal Government grant COFA islanders Federal Medicaid eligibility as a part of a Medicaid bill or through other legislation
• Advocate for increased Federal funding for COFA impact aid

Recently, Hawaii Congresswomen Senator Hirono and Representative Gabbard introduced S.1301/H.R.2249,entitled “Restoring Medicaid for Compact of Free Association Migrants Act of 2015,” which amends
PRWORA to restore Medicaid benefits for COFA islanders. Similar legislation was introduced in previous sessions but failed. Bills focusing specifically on COFA islanders have consistently lacked bipartisan support and attract a very narrow number of co-sponsors.

Note: In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity
Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) stripped some legal immigrants, including COFA islanders, of their eligibility for most federal programs such as Medicaid.

The most successful legislative effort to restore Medicaid benefits for all COFA islanders was through a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013, introduced by Senator Schumer (D-NY) and Representative Garcia (D-FL) and entitled the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S.744/H.R.155).

The bill included a provision to restore Medicaid eligibility for legally residing COFA islanders. Notably, the bill had bipartisan support in the Senate, but ran into partisan barriers in the House: four out of seven co-sponsors in the Senate were Republicans, but only three out of 200 co-sponsors in the House were Republicans. While the final package passed in the Senate (68 to 32 votes), it failed in House committee.

We now know that the Hawaii Governor & the Hawaii Congressmen/women have been trying or have tried to address this important COFA issue. Even the former Governor of HI Abercrombie once suggested & wrote to Senator Hirono that the Government officials of the FSM & Hawaii meet to address the pressing issues concerning FSM citizens in Hawaii.

My question is what have our leaders (President, Congressmen, Foreign Affairs Dept, JEMCO committee members) done to address the pressing issues concerning their citizens? Or what can they do? Or do they really care?

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