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Daycare payments stalled at DOA

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Daycare centers have been struggling to stay a float as the Government of Guam drags its feet getting payments for federal grants into the hands of providers. For qualified parents a block grant provided by the federal government to help cover daycare costs could be a life saver, but for some daycares that participate in the program receiving the funds on time has become a bit of a nightmare.

This isn't the first time Ross White, vice president of the Guam Childcare Development Association and owner of Kiddyland Daycare in Dededo has spoken out about the delays. He told KUAM News, "I'm not the only daycare a lot of them have been calling me and basically a lot of people that get paid at the first of the month and there is a lot of employees not just here at Kiddyland who are waiting for their paychecks."

In the past the delays were traced back to the Department of Public Health, the agency that is responsible for providing the vouchers for payment. And while White says that agency is still is not entirely blameless, the latest holdup has come from the Department of Administration. "It turned out that Public Health had submitted the bulk of them; they were logged in at DOA at February 16, which is very timely for Public Health. However, at DOA nothing happened."

Nothing happened, White found out, because personnel at DOA he says were off-island on medical leave. When White's checks for January services were again late, he reached out to Senator Adolpho Palacios, who took up the matter with DOA. "The reason it's not processed because the individual that is assigned primarily to handle those things is off-island or not available to do that," he said.

Such is an excuse that may be hard for white to swallow considering he is owed over $50,000 of Block Grant money and says the late fees are mounding due to the continuously untimely payments, essentially killing his business slowly. "It's a slow strangulation basically we have talked before and most of out expenses here are payroll and payroll taxes - about two-thirds to three-quarters of a daycare's of income goes right back out into the community for payroll," said White.

"And what it means for us right not when these are late is we can't pay our taxes and we pay big penalties."

Deputy Director of DOA George Santos confirms the delay resulted due to the employee in the Federal Branch Accounting Unit of DOA, who is tasked with drawing down the funds for Block Grant payments being off-island. Their supervisor was off island as well attending training.

Santos has assured KUAM News the checks for vouchers submitted by the Department of Public Health for White and other daycare owners will be cut no later than Wednesday. He says the delay was a result of a series of unforeseen events and is not expected to happen again in the future. For White and other daycare owners, it's a promise their businesses may be depending on.

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