Non-profits can't rely on GovGuam promises
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - Non-profit organizations are one step away from pursuing litigation in order to be paid for services they've rendered in good faith to the Government of Guam. The services are contracted out because the government isn't in a position nor has the resources to provide them itself.
The continued practice of non-payment has these organizations threatening to stop services altogether unless the island's public sector starts showing them the money.
"It defeats the purpose of Sanctuary to close our doors and drive the kids back to DYA or over to DYA and say 'it's your problem, it's not ours', that's why we're here. But we can't be taken advantage of just because that's why we're here," explained Rob Weinberg. The chairman of Sanctuary's board of directors says the non-profit organization can no longer rely on the good faith promises of the local government.
For the last 39 years, Sanctuary has provided services to the island's troubled youth through contracts with the Department of Youth Affairs and other government entities. Weinberg continued, ""If not for Sanctuary, a lot of these youth would be in DYA would be in jail and eventually would be in prison as adults because they're not getting the guidance they need."
Sanctuary has filed two government claims, for $190,000 that it has never been paid for services provided to the government. One claim for $130,000 was even specifically appropriated for in Public Law 30-41 authorizing the payment, yet the money never made it to the organization.
"We become the unwilling creditors of the government and spending 30, 60, or 90 days waiting to be paid. That's not too bad, but we're not a bank, we're not a financial institution. We're not charging interest. We're spending too much time chasing down money that we've contracted. We've already provided the services," noted the chairman.
It's a similar story for Catholic Social Services, which filed one government claim itself and even gone as far as filing a lawsuit for another outstanding debt. Executive director Diana Calvo told KUAM News, "We're having to continue to absorb the costs until we get payment and even at that sometimes the fear is still there that the obligation to pay may not really move forward."
In one case, the non-profit organization has been providing 24-hour care and services to consumers living at three of the island's group homes and hasn't been paid for the last two years. The organization has already provided notices to consumers that if a contract isn't in place by April 30, CSS will stop the services it's been providing. "We're not really using this as a threat, and I know some people might see it as that, but at some point in time, the government has to recognize us as a small business even if we are a non profit entity," she said.
The government's terrible track record in paying non-profits has resulted in the organizations demanding that contracts with the government are in place now -before- services are provided.
Both Weinberg and Calvo suggest that before contracts are signed, officials certify that funds are available to pay them as the few hundred thousand dollars they're each owed, is a drop in the bucket compared to the government's overall budget. "$130,000 is five to six weeks of our payroll," said Weinberg, "and so if you imagine we couldn't make payroll for these five to six weeks, that's the same thing as us closing our doors."
He concluded, "So instead of serving our families in need, we're spending our time filing government claims. And going to court to get a judgment that nobody disputes is owed."