July 14, 2004 Thanks to an ongoing series of "technical" problems, the Education Department is still waiting for around $21.5 million worth of federal Education Department grants. The grants were to fund programs in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2003.
V.I. Education Department spokesman Juel Anderson said last week that the department has asked for assistance from the federal Education Department to correct the grant application problems.
"Nothing's changed," she said Wednesday.
Programs affected by the funding delay include the Title V Innovative Education Program, the Adult Education Program, the Vocational Education Program, the English Language Acquisition program, and Advanced Placement programs.
Meanwhile, the V.I. Resource Center for the Disabled and other agencies have been forced to curtail programs. The computer literacy program at the Resource Center for the Disabled took a hit, director Shirley Joseph said. She said the non-profit organization has been waiting since October 2003 for about $80,000 in grant money.
"Our heart goes out to those who can't be included," she said.
She said the program is intended to help people, including those who moved here from the Dominican Republic, gain skills to make them employable.
Joseph, who retired last year from her job as principal at Julius E. Sprauve School, is no stranger to grant delays. Before accepting the job as director at the Resource Center in October, she served on the agency's board. She said that grants funded through local agencies are often late.
"But this is the worst," she said.
Phil Maestri, director of management improvement for the federal Education Department, was out of the office until next week. His voice mail referred calls to an assistant, who did not return phone calls requesting comment.
According to a press release from Acting Education Commissioner Rita Howard, the territory asked for technical help before the July 2003 deadline for grant applications. It's unclear whether help was forthcoming in a timely manner.
Howard said the local Education Department submitted an application for the grant money on Dec. 17, 2003. The federal Education Department responded in March, asking for revisions. The local department then sent in a revised application. The federal department responded in June and followed up with a visit.
"We're waiting for final approval," Anderson said.
Howard said in her press release that she expects the grant money to arrive within 10 to 15 working days. This means local agencies will have to wait until near the end of July for their promised money to arrive.
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