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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Insular Affairs
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Secretary Norton Signs $5.1 Million Grant for Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands



CONTACT: Keith Parsky 301-758-5537

SAIPAN, January 16, 2004 -- Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Governor Juan Babauta today signed a grant that will provide over $5.1 million to the Marianas to help deal with the social costs of migration from other U.S.-affiliated islands--namely the freely associated states of Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands.

"These funds will help the Marianas provide health, education and other social services to the citizens of the freely associated states who are permitted to migrate here under the Compacts of Free Association," said Norton, who is making her first visit to the Northern Marianas. The funds will be provided through the Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs

As a visiting Congressional delegation led by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo looked on, Secretary Norton provided the first annual installment of the "Compact Impact" payments under legislation signed by President Bush in December 2003. The legislation authorized amendments to the Compacts of Free Association with the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

"We expect that the amended Compact will reduce migration by improving health, education and economic opportunity in the freely associated states. We also expect that those who choose to migrate will eventually contribute much to the Commonwealth. But in the short run, migration can put a strain on local budgets and these grants should help to alleviate that problem."

Norton thanked Congress for working to get the Compact legislation passed. "Without the support of Congress, especially the House Resources Committee under Chairman Richard Pombo's leadership, none of this would have been possible," said Norton.

The Compact legislation provides that $30 million will be divided each year for the next 20 years among the Marianas, Guam, Hawaii and American Samoa to help those jurisdictions deal with the effects of migration from the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands, which are commonly known as the freely associated states.

The funds are to be divided proportionally among the jurisdictions on the basis of the number of people in each jurisdiction who migrated from the freely associated states after 1986, when the original Compacts went into effect. Minor children of such migrants are also counted.