The Guam Department of Labor, using sole-source procurement, awarded a nearly $800,000 contract to an off-island firm for a computer program that is key to rolling out a federal unemployment benefits program on island.

Florida-based Geographic Solutions Inc. got the sole-source award on April 21.

The purchase orders amounted to $791,850, based on Guam Labor documents obtained by The Guam Daily Post on Friday through a Guam Sunshine Law request.

Specifically, Geographic Solutions will come up with a computer module for Guam’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits claims and processing.

In 2013, Guam Labor awarded a $238,995 contract to Geographic Solutions to build HireGuam, the island’s virtual one-stop system.

Geographic Solutions is the “sole and exclusive owner” of HireGuam, which includes all modifications, updates and revisions, and all intellectual proprietary rights, said Guam Labor Director David Dell’Isola.

Because HireGuam will be utilized to process benefits and claims for the COVID-19 unemployment assistance programs, the upgrade, through a module development, could only be done by the same vendor, Dell’Isola said.

Dell’Isola justified the proposed sole-sourced procurement to Geographic Solutions in his April 9 letter to Guam’s chief procurement officer, Claudia Acfalle.

“Considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to Guam’s workforce, the procurement of this module will allow for the department to implement the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program,” Dell’Isola wrote to Acfalle.

Some 38,000 Guam workers are expected to claim unemployment benefits for job loss, furlough or pay cut because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dell’Isola proposed a $924 million budget to the U.S. Department of Labor to stand up and distribute unemployment checks up to the end of the year.

Negotiations

Guam Labor negotiated with Geographic Solutions for weeks.

In email exchanges, Guam Labor asked the vendor for a price reduction.

Geographic Solutions revised its quote, which it said is a “significant discount from the initial proposal, and is further discounted since the system will leverage Guam DOL’s investment in the HireGuam system.”

Initial proposed costs and options included amounts of more than $1 million.

“By integrating the PUA into the HireGuam system, Geographic Solutions was able to provide the PUA module enhancement at a significant cost savings,” Geographic Solutions director of sales and marketing Deanne Toler wrote in an April 7 letter to Dell’Isola.

Two weeks later, the sole-source procurement was awarded.

Up to $945 a week

Implementing the PUA benefits programs on Guam is authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, a $2 trillion relief package from Congress to help address the COVID-19 crisis in the states and territories.

PUA entitles each eligible worker up to $345 a week for up to 39 weeks.

Anyone eligible to get PUA assistance is also qualified to get a supplemental $600 a week for a few months, in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

To date, only employers can register and provide detailed information on hireguam.com about their workers affected by COVID-19.

Dell’Isola said the Department of Labor expects to open the application process to employees before the end of the month.

Geographic Solutions, on its website, listed Guam Labor as one of its clients, for both the virtual one-stop hireguam.com and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program portal. It also advertises itself as “the nation’s leading provider of software solutions for the workforce development, labor market information, and unemployment industries.”

Breakdown

Purchase orders to Geographic Solutions dated April 21 and signed by chief procurement officer Acfalle show:

• $140,900 for computer software needed to implement the PUA program in line with the governor’s Executive Order 2020-03;

• $125,600 for computer software for weekly certification application;

• $54,000 for computer software on pandemic and disaster unemployment insurance module;

• $118,150 for unemployment insurance module;

• $4,000 for staff training for the module, four-day web-based training; and

• $349,200 for monthly licensing fee, April to September 2020, including software support, maintenance and system hosting.

2 new hires

Guam Labor hired two new employees who will help in the implementation of the unemployment aid programs:

• $50,328 annual salary or $24.80 an hour for Catrina M. Contreras, hired as a special project coordinator effective April 27; and

• $26,500 annual salary or $12.75 an hour for Noah K. Peredo, hired as a customer service representative effective May 4.

Dell’Isola had said that local funds fronted the costs to stand up the unemployment aid programs, which is expected to be repaid with federal funds once the U.S. Department of Labor approves the proposed $924 million budget.

Other purchase orders

Other procurement related to establishing the unemployment benefits program based on Guam Labor documents include:

• $1,229 for the purchase of gloves, masks and infrared thermometers from Royal Bics on April 23; and

• $1,174 for the purchase of N95 masks and hand sanitizer from 7-Day Supermarket on April 23.

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