The secretary of the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs is disappointed with the funding cuts for his agency in fiscal year 2013, saying it could result in the removal of certain positions and the inability to implement and sustain the agency's programs.
Melvin Faisao said DCCA was one of two government agencies that got the biggest cuts based on the budget bill signed into law by Gov. Benigno R. Fitial on Sept. 30.
DCCA was allocated a budget of $1,506,415 for 2013, a 10.29-percent decrease compared to the governor's proposal of $1,723,956.
Faisao said the biggest cut was to his office, whose budget went down from $285,033 to $132,618 or by 53.47 percent. This would affect eight full-time employee positions, including the secretary, the deputy secretary, social worker, and eligibility worker under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, as well as restrict the office from providing assistance to other agency divisions.
“As the head of an immense department that is involved in many social and community events, it is impossible to succeed in carrying out its mission without the essential accessibility of funds to operate,” said Faisao.
He questioned the Legislature's decision to slash funding for DCCA and the Department of Commerce while increasing the budget for the Legislative Bureau by 37.8 percent.
“The decision to slash funding and award to another without any reason or justification as to why this is taking place is unfathomable,” said Faisao.
According to him, it was rumored that the DCCA budget cut was more of a “retaliatory gesture” than sound fiscal policy.
“Whether or not the operational funding cut was deliberately done or the cut was overlooked, the DCCA Office of the Secretary would like a justification as to why they were sorely neglected by the Senate version of the bill that was signed into law,” he said.
Faisao also maintained that Public Law 17-85 was a “hastily prepared budget” submitted by the Legislature to Fitial for signing, even after the governor gave the lawmakers ample time to review the proposed 2013 budget.
“This left our honorable governor with two options, either sign into law the proposed budget and allow the government to function uninterruptedly or force a government shutdown and leave thousands temporarily jobless,” he said.
Faisao said DCCA has continued to work hard despite “unsatisfactory funds and continued budget cuts” over the years to provide community and social services to the populace.
“At the end of the day, it is not the department or its employees who will be agonized, but the innumerable individuals who rely on the department for aid during these hard-hitting economic times,” he added.