The child support division of the attorney general’s office is stepping up the identification process to track any working adult who is a non-custodial parent.
All of Guam’s 2 000-plus businesses will now be actively required to report the names of new employees to the attorney general’s office.
The attorney general’s office contacted civic organizations on Guam to pass the message that companies should voluntarily comply before mandated fines per employee are imposed.
While local and federal laws requiring employers to do just that are already on the books a meager number of companies have been complying according to the attorney general’s office.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 requires each State to develop a State Directory of New Hires. The federal mandate also reads “The law required the [U.S.] Department of Health and Human Services to develop a National Directory of New Hires.”
Public law 26-148 was passed on Guam in July 2000 creating the New Hire Directory. The legislation states “An employer shall report to the director of new hires whenever that employer hires or rehires an employee. Employers shall submit reports required under this subsection within 20 calendar days of the date of hiring or rehiring of the employee.” The director of new hires according to Guam law is the attorney general or a designee within the child support enforcement office.
Barbara P. Cepeda deputy attorney general with the Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Guam told the Journal under local law there are penalties for employers who do not report new hires.
Guam law states there is a fine if an employer “Fails to file reports as required by this chapter and has previously received written notice of non-compliance.”
The employer is “Subject to a civil penalty of $24 for each intentionally unreported employee except that the penalty shall be $499 for each intentionally unreported employee if the failure is to report the result of a conspiracy between employer and the employee not to supply the required report or to supply a false or incomplete report.” Cepeda said the 1996 federal law also details similar monetary penalties.
Cepeda said when she joined the child support division in 2003 Douglas B. Moylan attorney general immediately issued a memo outlining the law and stating the reporting requirements. “I took that memo and had my staff fax all the businesses down the line from ‘A to Z’ in the phone book.” She said “I also gave a copy to the business license division of the Department of Revenue and Taxation to hand it out to all those applicants.”
According to Cepeda more employers need to realize the importance of reporting new hires or rehires.
“Of about 100% of the employers on Guam [public and private sector] only 30% are reporting.” Cepeda told the Journal larger corporations such as hotels contribute to that percentage. However she said her division finds difficulty in having small businesses with foreign nationals or expatriates as owners following the requirement. “Big businesses such as most hotels are complying.”
Reporting new hires allows the child support division to track non-custodial parents who have not paid child support. Cepeda said “The information we get is sent to a national clearinghouse … the Social Security Administration in Baltimore. The information is then shared with all 50 states and four territories.” She added “Let’s say for example if Joe Cruz a non-custodial parent left Guam and he had an order to withhold income [a court-ordered payroll deducted child support payment]. If Arizona reported him as a new hire we could send the order over to Arizona and he would have to pay.”
Cepeda said her division is not aggressively enforcing the law yet to allow more employers to comply. “We want to give everybody time.” Cepeda added “I plan on conducting employer symposiums to get the word out. I want to meet with more employer groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Employers Council. As a matter of fact I’ve already contacted them.”
Cepeda said all employers and their accounting departments or human resources managers should realize the hidden cost of not reporting new hires.
“Employers should be concerned because you are denying these children the child support they need. Basically when custodial parents do not receive the child support they get on public assistance and as taxpayers everyone is paying to support that child.”
The law is also a locator tool for finding custodial parents or parents that have been awarded custody of their children. Cepeda said “Sometimes we need to find parents to give them information and not just to get money.” MBJ