Feds award Hawaii $15.8 million to offset COFA costs

The U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs awarded Hawaii $15.8 million on Friday to help offset costs of services to citizens from the Freely Associated States.

The Compact of Free Association allows citizens of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau to move to Hawaii without obtaining visas, according to a news release from Gov. Josh Green. About 16,300 members of the COFA lived in Hawaii, according to numbers from fiscal year 2022.

“We welcome this generous assistance from the federal government in helping to care for our brothers and sisters from other Pacific islands,” Green said in a statement. “We are one ʻohana and as governor, I am committed to helping residents of Hawaii receive the access to services they need. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw Pacific Islanders disproportionately hard-hit, having the worst rate of infections, despite making up only 4% of our population."

The money will cover costs related to medical insurance coverage, according to Cathy Betts, director of the State Department of Human Services.

"Many of our Pacific Island neighbors from these nations, like other communities, suffer the effects of social drivers of health," Betts said. "This is why maintaining available access to medical insurance coverage is critical."

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