23% ON GUAM LIVE BELOW POVERTY LINE

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By Steve Limtiaco

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (February 9, 2002 – Pacific Daily News)---Guam's welfare programs had managed to keep pace with the growing number of poor residents, but that trend ended with the government's latest budget, said Department of Public Health and Social Services Director Dennis Rodriguez.

Welfare funds lag

The latest census information shows that the percentage of people living below the poverty level on Guam has increased between 1990 and 2000, from 14 percent to 23 percent.

"Up to last year, the funding for welfare has increased on the local side -- very modest increases on the federal side. We had spent more than $26 million in fiscal year 2001 (for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families)," Rodriguez said.

"Up to last year, money has always been found to satisfy what was needed at that time."

In response to the government's declining revenue collections, Public Health proposed a 25 percent cut in the program for this fiscal year, to $21 million.

"We had prepared a budget of $21 million, yet the Legislature only gave us $16 million," Rodriguez said.

Checks may shrink

Rodriguez said that unless additional funding is found for the temporary assistance program, welfare recipients will experience a cut of about 57 percent in their assistance checks.

"The census report is for 2000, even before the sudden drop (in the economy) happened," Rodriguez said. "There are going to be even more people on the poor side."

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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