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Guam's daycares not getting paid

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Daycare owners are saying they aren't getting paid - not by parents, but by the local government, who controls federal grant money they are owed.  Alma Underwood runs Honey Bear Daycare in Sinajana, which has 44 children enrolled.

But she says it's not the kids that are stressing her out, but rather the Guam Department of Public Health.  "I can also live with being one month consistently behind," she said.  "What I can't live with and what I can't understand and what makes me very angry is the inconsistency."  She references federal block grant money the center receives for services to children whose parents qualify.

Public Health is supposed to issue the money to the center after parents fill out a particular form, but a major slowdown in the process is causing daycare centers to wait for money they say they need in order to say afloat.

Underwood says she is owed $10,000 in back payments, adding, "Pete [Robert, Public Health director] is going to get me on this...but all this lies on the director.  The director should really get out of his office go down and find out what are we doing wrong?  They keep saying staffing is the problem; they are always short on staff to process the block grant."

Rose White, owner of Kiddy Land Daycare in Dededo, says she, too, has faced the same problem for years.  She said, "I started this daycare here in Guam in '86, and it's an ongoing problem.  It's its neverending."

And Delilah Charfauros, director of Kids Corner Child Carecenter in Yigo and president of the Guam Childcare Development Association, says she has faced the same hurdles in getting paid.  "And the other thing too is they try and say it's the clients it the center fault cause they are not doing their job and we have been doing our job," she said.

On top of that, Charfauros says Public Health's focus on new rules and regulations for daycares is taking time away from processing payments for current services.  "It's kind of hard to get the block grant processed now because they are working on the rules and regulations for that proposal," she commented.

Underwood depends on the block grant for a portion of her income, but says other are in an even tougher situation.  "This is no way to run a business.  I've got friends who own a childcare centers who are 100% block grant-funded, and they are still waiting. I don't know how they survive," she noted.

White says she simply can't survive, if she doesn't get the $20,000 a year she receives from the block grant.  "So if we don't get that you can tell we will shut down," she said.

And this is a consequence others are already facing, as another daycare center owner anonymously said they are owned nearly $50,000 for four months' service.  They say they are being forced to sell their service and say if they had been paid on time they could have remained in business.

Public Health's Linda Susuico, the agency's chief human services administrator, tells KUAM News that staffing was an issue in getting the payments out on time. She says the department is working on an automated system that will expedite payments, projecting that the system should be up and running by the end of the year.

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