Some $85 million has been spent on COVID-19 relief measures to date.
So said Minister of Social Development and Family Services Camille Robinson-Regis yesterday as she disclosed 92,000 individuals and families have accessed grants and food support thus far.
Robinson-Regis was speaking during yesterday’s virtual media conference hosted by the Ministry of Health.
“I want to report that 92,000 individuals and families benefited from social-protection measures implemented by the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services so far. In fact, the ministry has touched the lives of over 278,274 persons in a short space of time. The total expenditure so far for measures associated with COVID-19 alone is in excess of $85 million,” she said.
This includes $30,587,760 spent on food cards for families with children in the school feeding programme.
Robinson-Regis said 19,992 food cards were delivered to MPs to distribute to these families. The cards are topped up with $510 a month for three months.
Families already in receipt of food cards have received additional top-ups on their cards, ranging from $150 for families of up to three people to $500 for families of six or more persons.
A total of $17,144,100 has been spent on this initiative, Robinson-Regis said.
Additionally, food hampers have been provided for those who were not able to receive food cards.
Those receiving disability and public assistance grants received increases ranging from $150 for individuals to $500 for families of five or more persons.
To date, 37,090 persons have benefited from this measure, to the tune of $22,520,250.
Robinson-Regis said the ministry received over 30,000 applications for income support from persons who lost jobs as a result of COVID-19.
Successful applicants will receive $1,500 per month for up to six months.
The expenditure for this measure amounted to $7,677,000.
A total of $12,681,000 has been spent to provide temporary income support to senior citizens whose senior citizen pension applications are outstanding while persons with outstanding disability grant applications received assistance to the tune of $1,464,000.
Robinson-Regis said 100 food hampers were delivered to each of the 14 municipalities and to date, 1,067 households have received hampers.
The ministry also recently launched another initiative, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, whereby recipients will get a $250 supermarket voucher and a box of locally grown fresh fruit, vegetables and two chickens. This initiative is projected to cost the Government $15 million, Robinson-Regis said.
Helping the homeless
A further $190,000 was spent to upgrade accommodation for homeless persons at a Port of Spain shelter.
The ministry is also processing rental assistance grants to help those who lost income to meet their housing costs. Robinson-Regis appealed to landlords to be patient while this is being done.
She said all these measures are intended to ease the impact of the COVID-19 fallout on the most vulnerable in the population. She called for unity and togetherness as the country battles the virus.
“As a citizen, I can tell you that what is happening today is nothing we have ever seen before. My prayer is that as a nation, we will all recognise and embrace our new normal and new way of life post-COVID-19.
“For now, however, the impetus is on us as Government for all the people in Trinidad and Tobago to ensure that no one is left behind as we journey on a pathway to recovery. We must unite for the common good of all,” she said.
Robinson-Regis said it will not be an easy fight but everyone must play their part.
“We are all in this together. We have to fight it together. What is required is collective consciousness for the sake of those who are most vulnerable at this time—those vulnerable to the virus and those who are now asked to bear the burden of the adjustment that is required in this fight to keep the virus away,” she added.