Hospital employees who have been waiting for their housing allowances may get a fraction of what is owed them after Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. COO and chief financial officer Esther Muña said they may release a one-month check to affected staff this month.
In a report to the corporation's board of trustees on Friday, Muña said a partial payment of the housing perk will probably be issued once the corporation receives its reimbursement from the Medicaid program.
It was learned that the employees' housing benefit has been delayed since July 2012. This amounts to $600 a month for single employees hired from outside the Commonwealth and $800 a month for those with families.
As of July 2012, a total of 144 employees were supposed to receive the allowance, Muña said, amounting to a total of $104,209.
For August 2012, the number of employees eligible to receive the benefit went down to 140 and this further declined in September to 137.
From July to January 2013, the corporation owes its employees over $400,000 in housing benefits.
According to Muña, the delay in releasing the allowance was due to funding constraints and not because of any accounting system failures being experienced by the organization.
Meantime, the corporation was able to pay the housing benefits of two employees from the National Health Service Corp. who have already left the island, she said.
Other former hospital employees who are owed the same benefit are either paid through installments or the entire obligation.
“We don't have the money now to pay every single one of them, considering we are saving the $3 million, whether to pay the [Marianas Public Land Trust] loan or not,” Muña told the board.
Based on the financial reports submitted to the board, the corporation has in its cash account $6.344 million as of Jan. 31, 2013. This amount includes the $3 million it reserved to pay for the MPLT loan.
No clear direction
Muña told the board that the hospital management still counts the housing benefit up to now because there is no clear direction on the matter.
The board approved last year the elimination of the housing allowance due to scare resources.
Early interviews with corporation CEO Juan N. Babauta also indicated that the housing allowance would be considered in the salary adjustment of employees when their contract comes up for renewal.
“There's a discussion before I came back that housing allowance is going to be eliminated. I am not sure if it's the same direction of the board,” Muña said.
For the first quarter of the fiscal year-from October 2012 to January 2013-the corporation posted actual revenue of $5.7 million against early projections of $6.9 million.