The operation of a number of child care centers on Saipan is being gravely impacted by the lengthy delay in the issuance of checks for the government’s Child Care Program.
Owners and managers of about six child care centers interviewed by Saipan Tribune yesterday disclosed that they’ve been experiencing up to 60 days delay in their provider’s checks, resulting in their failure to meet their payroll on time and in numerous disconnection notices for unpaid utility obligations, among others.
Because of this “demoralizing situation,” they fear that personnel performance may be affected in the long run.
Child care center owners and managers interviewed for this story agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.
The child care program in the Commonwealth is subsidized by the federal government though the Child Care Development Fund, which is administered by the Department of Community Cultural Affairs.
While awaiting their subsidy, child care center managers said that many of them borrow money to tide them over or ask their private participants for consideration.
In the absence of timely government subsidy, these centers rely on the payments they get from parents of children they serve who are not under the child care program. Those with a larger private clientele are therefore luckier than those that merely rely on the CCDF subsidy, they said.
Saipan Tribune learned that providers got their subsidy for October 2011 only in December last year.
For their November checks, they got their checks only on Jan. 31, 2012, while their December subsidy was released only yesterday, Feb. 23.
DCCA Secretary Melvin Faisao admitted yesterday that there have been some delays in the release of some checks but denied that it has reached up to 45 to 60 days, as claimed by the providers.
“That is not true. As noted, December payments are out and DCCA is processing all vendor payment for January, which will be submitted to the Department of Finance,” he said, adding that the January check may be issued within the month or early next month.
Faisao explained that pursuant to its policy, DCCA has 19 working days to complete the payment review from vendors. After that, it will be routed to Finance, Procurement and Supply, then down to the Treasury Division for final assessment and check issuance.
As far as DCCA is concerned, Faisao stressed that the agency is complying with its 19-day policy. He cannot, however, speak on behalf of Finance for the next processing steps.
Faisao also explained that the delay in the issuance of the last three checks (October, November, December) was due to the 16-hour austerity measure implemented by the government, affecting employees at Finance and DCCA, among others. The holiday breaks, he said, also contributed in the slow processing of documents.
The continued delay in the release of their checks is prompting child care providers to speculate that the Child Care Development Fund is possibly being used for other purposes by the government.
Faisao immediately belied this, saying DCCA has a complete and updated record of all CCDF drawdowns from the federal government.
He disclosed that for fiscal year 2012-2014, the CNMI child care program is allocated $1.9 million. Of the amount, 5 percent is allowed for administrative costs, 8 percent for quality initiative programs, 8 percent for quality expansion, 5 percent for infant and toddler, and 1 percent for school age. The bulk of the funds is for the program’s certification, which is 73 percent, he said.
DCCA has seven staff handling the child care program on three islands.
To date, there are 25 centers and 415 children enrolled in the program.
The Childcare Development Program was under the Public School System for the past 15 years before it was turned over to DCCA in 2008.