Senate deferred its bill SB 10-63, HD3, banning exportation of any living marine resource in Palau’s “reef areas, territorial sea, and internal waters” back to the House of Delegates after House added a rider to it increasing the basic social security benefit and removing mandate for an actuarial report on impact of such increase.

House had added a couple of riders on the Senate bill, one to allow Palauan college students to obtain internships at Palau’s diplomatic missions in order to comply with their student loan repayment programs and two, to increase social security basic benefits from $148 to $248 for those receiving basic benefits beginning October 1, 2020 and exempting such increase from the requirement of an actuarial report.

The bill rider also states that the exemption of the actuary report requirement is only applicable to this increase and will be applied to any future amendment which would have a financial impact on the Retirement Fund.

Three different letters from Social Security Administration to Senator Mark Rudimch of Senate Ways & Means Committee, one in 2017 and two in 2018, addressed the issue of raising the current basic benefit and the impact on the Social Security funds.

In the letters, the Social Security Administration continues to express that it is not in a position to increase benefits without some measure to increase contributions.  Furthermore, it states, “any increase of benefits that will have a negative financial impact on the SS Fund must have an Actuarial Study.”  It insists if an exception is made from the Actuarial Study Requirement, that the funding must be sourced elsewhere outside of the Social Security Administration.  Social Security asserts that it is still at 34% of its funding ratio, far from the 80% recommended ratio that it needs to reach.

The basic benefit means benefit based on a cumulative reported wage of a retiree during his or her working years that was less than $11,000.  Out of the 326 such beneficiaries, 14 are retirees themselves and 307 are dependent beneficiaries, either dependent child, surviving spouse or a disabled dependent.  This amount does not include the $50 supplemental benefit authorized under RPPL 10-12.

The main proposed bill seeks to ban the exportation of any living marine resource on Palau’s reefs, territorial sea, and internal waters, citing that the allowed exportation of 50lb of fish or other marine resources for personal consumption is being exploited for commercial purpose and adding to the depletion of local marine resource from the reef.

The bill is deferred back for reconsideration.  If no compromise is reached between the two houses, the bill may die in the House.  If an agreement is reached, then it will be sent to the President for his consideration and signature. (L.N. Reklai)