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The Broken Pipeline: The Reliance of Government Assistance

Maite Payless Supermarket
Rian Anne-Guzman
Maite Payless Supermarket

The people of Guam are met with ongoing challenges of economic disparities from the rising cost of goods and the lingering impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With so much more time at home with family members, priorities shifted, causing many to rethink work-life balance.

That shift in mentality broke what Guam Department of Labor (GDOL) director, David Dell’Isola, calls the employment and recruitment pipeline.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is a nationwide program that is a crucial support system for thousands of Guam residents. As of last year, there were more than 73,000 eligible recipients in Guam. This includes Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is catered for people with disabilities who cannot work.

Maria San Nicholas is a mother of three who is constantly on her toes. She is one of the thousands of Guam residents who rely on SNAP to put food on the table.

“It’s actually a great help since the food prices are going up,” she said.

San Nicholas is currently unemployed. Her only financial support system is her girlfriend who works at a deli in a local supermarket chain. Through SNAP, San Nicholas receives $1,400 a month for her household and can use six to seven hundred dollars monthly on groceries.

While SNAP offers essential financial assistance, eligibility requirements and restrictions remain. As income increases through employment, benefits may decrease, prompting individuals like San Nicholas to opt for government assistance to sustain their families. However, limitations exist on SNAP-funded purchases, with only certain food items eligible.

“With EBT, they can only buy food items, not items. They are able to buy colds like salad but not cooked meals,” said Payless employee, Amy Cruz. “But with EBT cash they can buy anything like alcohol and non-food items.”

“Especially now since inflation, some they rely on it,” said Cruz.

David Dell’Isola believes this disruption was caused by the global pandemic, which led many individuals to reassess their priorities and work-life balance.

With the shift to remote work and the availability of government assistance, some individuals opted not to return to traditional employment which leads them to apply for and start relying on government assistance. He said the pipeline to recruit, onboard, train, and promote employees, is a tedious investment and may take years to fix.

To help restore the rusted pipeline, the department created an apprenticeship program for the youth to gain professional, in-demand skills. They encompass a wide range of fields, from automotive to construction, and law enforcement.

“Is it going to be the cure? No. But it helps feed the pipeline, it is helping our kids,” Dell’Isola said.

The occupations associated with the program are in need of expanding their workforce, and Dell’Isola hopes to fill those gaps with their apprenticeship program. They are partnering with private businesses and institutions like the Guam Community College to make this happen, and Dell’Isola plans to broaden these programs to the adult population coming out of DOC.

While repairing the pipeline is a long and tedious process, he remains steadfast in his belief that the current phase of disengagement is transient. As individuals mature and evolve, their perspectives and priorities often shift.

Dell’Isola envisioned a scenario where the people of Guam, having explored various avenues of employment, may eventually tire of the stagnant or unfilled roles they once embraced.

The GDOL director is optimistic and hopes a resurgence in interest and engagement among the island’s residents will pave the way for the restoration of Guam’s working pipeline in the years to come.

This story was produced in collaboration with KPRG News and University of Guam's Communication and Media Program.

Rian-Anne Guzman, a graduate of the Academy of Our Lady of Guam, is currently a sophomore at the University of Guam, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Communication.