KBE Local Government Meets with Congressional Staffers in Majuro
Mayor Alson Kelen, Senator Tomaki Juda and the KBE local government Council met with Congressional staffers from both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives Energy and Natural Resources committees yesterday, April 8, 2010, in Majuro at the KBE Town Hall.
The U.S. representatives were:
Allen P. Stayman (Senate professional staff, Democrat)
Isaac Edwards (Senate counsel, Republican)
Brian Modeste (House counsel Insular Affairs, Democrat)
Bonnie Bruce (House legislative staff, Republican)
Issues raised by the Bikinian leaders were as follows:
1) The US Supreme Court decision to deny an appeal by the Bikinians, thus ending their ability to get legal relief from the US court system. The Bikinian leaders emphasized that the US Congress would now be the only avenue for aid from the US government because of the recent US Supreme Court action. The representatives from Congress said that there was some pending legislation for the nuclear victims of the RMI being discussed, mostly to do with health care.
2) USDA food. The problem we are facing now is that the US allotment for USDA food for the people of Bikini living in the Marshall Islands is based on a population of a little over 1,000 people when in actuality there are over 4,000 Bikinians. We are hoping this can be addressed in Congressional legislation later this year. It is a but complicated because it will involve coordination with the other 4 atolls receiving this food and with the RMI government.
3) Bikinians and other Marshallese living in the US, especially Arkansas, are in need of health care and other US aid. There is some indication that there may be an attempt to allow Marshallese citizens (also FSM and Palau citizens) to go back on the US Medicaid program. This may also be taken up later this year in COngress, but it is not certain.
Note: there is currently a census that the US is conducting to count how many Marshallese there are in the various communities. If you are a Bikinian living in Arkansas, please make sure you fill out a census form as this may help Arkansas get more US federal aid.
4) Power. The issue of power generation and the cost for the power plants on Kili and how that has impacted the budget for the KBE local government. Various forms of alternative energy–and ideas for funding these projects–were discussed. The Bikinian leaders also raised many of the problems associated with the high cost of energy on Kili Island.
5) The issue of Bikinian emigration to the US should sea levels rise to the point where the RMI is no longer livable. This was just a short preliminary discussion regarding rising sea levels to see if anyone in the US Congress had given any thought to this issue.