OIA Highlights Accomplishments for Insular Areas; Applauds Recent Legislative and Administrative Actions

Last edited 01/19/2021

WASHINGTON – U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, Douglas W. Domenech today highlighted the major accomplishments of his tenure as Assistant Secretary from 2017 to 2021. Domenech also applauded several recent legislative and administrative actions that will ultimately support the insular areas, their economies, and their communities.

“I have been honored to serve as Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, and I am proud of the work that we have been able to accomplish together toward improving island communities,” said Assistant Secretary Domenech. “We would not have been able to accomplish as much as we did without backing from the Administration, Secretary Bernhardt, and Congress. I also applaud the various legislative and executive actions taken recently that will have important positive impacts on island communities both in the territories and here in the mainland.”

“I am grateful to have been part of the work and mission of the Office of Insular Affairs the past few years,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Sarah Jorgenson. “The collective results of our team and partners have helped to improve the livelihood of individuals and families in the Caribbean and across the Pacific, and we know that these vital efforts and collaboration will continue into the future.”

The following two provisions were included in the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law (Public Law 116-260) by the President on Sunday, December 27, 2020:

  1. Medicaid Eligibility for Individuals from the Freely Associated States Residing in the U.S.: Individuals from the freely associated states who are legally residing as non-resident aliens in the United States and have now had their eligibility for Medicaid benefits restored, impacting thousands of Pacific Islanders living in the United States under the Compacts of Free Association. This provision also means that affected jurisdictions, such as Guam and Hawai’i, may realize important relief from the impact of migration of these individuals, often referred to as Compact Impact.
  2. CARES Act Eligibility Extended: Commonwealth-Only Transitional Workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands will now be considered eligible for CARES Act funding, affecting approximately 8,000 workers in the territory.

Additional recent administrative actions include:

The Philippines Now Eligible for H-2B Non-Immigrant Visa Program: In the Federal Register this week, the Secretary of Homeland Security announced his determination, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, that effective January 19, 2021, workers from the Philippines will be eligible to participate in the H-2B non-immigrant visa program through January 18, 2022. This decision, consistent with U.S. interest and regulations, ensures that the labor needs of the U.S. military realignment projects in Guam and the labor shortages experienced in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) are met properly. DOI has continued to register the significant dependence that Guam and the CNMI have on foreign workers from the Philippines to supplement necessary and essential components of their workforce and applauds this decision in support of the territories.

WHIAAPI Report Calls for Action on Pacific Islanders: This week the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders released its 2020 Report, A Call to Action to Empower Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Executive Order 13872, which established the current Commission, called for the economic empowerment of these communities, with specific reference to populations in the U.S. insular areas. DOI applauds the report for highlighting the need to improve the economic condition of the U.S. Pacific territories and ease assimilation of U.S. Pacific Islanders into the mainland U.S. economy. DOI encourages the territorial governments and other interested organizations to engage with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to further these goals.

A Free and Open Indo-Pacific: This week, National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien delivered a statement on the recent declassification of the U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific, to be transparent and to communicate to the American people, allies, and partners about the United States’ enduring commitment to keep the Indo-Pacific region free and open long into the future.

For more information about the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, visit our website at www.doi.gov/oia or follow us on Twitter and YouTube @InsularAffairs. You may also follow OIA on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/InsularAffairs.

The Assistant Secretary, Insular and International Affairs, and the Office of Insular Affairs carry out the Secretary of the Interior’s responsibilities for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, the Office of Insular Affairs administers and oversees federal assistance under the Compacts of Free Association to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.

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