Highlights from today’s (2.05.2020) Virtual Health Media Conference

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In case you missed it, here are the key highlights from today’s Virtual Health Media Conference:

  • Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh, gave an update on the Ministry’s work in combating Covid-19 in T&T. To date, 367 persons have undergone Community Testing for the virus and all tests have returned Negative. The Minister also shared that specialized ICU Nurses from Cuba arrived yesterday and after a 2 week quarantine period they will be deployed to work.
  • Minister of Social Development and Family Services, Camille Robinson-Regis shared the figures from Government’s Social Support Measures thus far. She indicated that more than 92,000 individuals and families have benefited from said measures, in fact, the Ministry has touched the lives of over 278,274 persons in this short space of time. The Minister stated that the total expenditure so far, for measures associated with COVID-19 alone is in excess of $85 million. Minister Robinson-Regis then gave a detailed breakdown of the implemented measures individually, these are as follows:
  • Temporary food support to existing school feeding beneficiaries and temporary food support to households whose children receive meals under the School Feeding Programme but who do not have a permanent food card: $510 per month for a three-month period.
    19,992 food support cards were delivered to MPs to distribute to parents and guardians.
    Expenditure to date of this initiative is $30,587,760.
  • The Minister also noted that these temporary cards will only be given to children REGISTERED for school feeding and if parents or guardians are already in possession of a permanent food card, they would not be eligible for the temporary ones.
  • Food support for existing beneficiaries: A $150 top up for households up to 3 persons. $300 for households with 3-5 persons and $450 for households with 6 or more persons.
    Expenditure to date of this initiative is $17,144,100 (Seventeen million, one hundred and forty-four thousand, one hundred dollars.)
  • Minister Robinson-Regis indicated that a new food support initiative was launched yesterday in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, for families in direct need during the stay at home period. Over a period of 4 months, approximately 30,000 local food baskets will be distributed across the country. Recipients will also get a $250 Supermarket voucher with a box of locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables and 2 chickens. The food box will be supplied by NAMDEVCO and sourced from farmers across the country. Recipients of these will be drawn from persons who are unable to access the social support grants as well as households whose children are under the school feeding program but were not able to access food cards. To access this basket, persons will be contacted by their MP.
    Expenditure to date of this initiative is $15 million dollars.
  • The Minister also said that there is food support for vulnerable persons through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and Faith Based Organizations, in the form of food hampers. This is intended to provide assistance for over 35,000 households.
    20 cheques have already been prepared for the umbrella bodies of all the religions of T&T
  • Temporary income and food support measures for new beneficiaries, that is, persons who may have been retrenched, terminated or had their income reduced. This will be paid for a period no longer than 3 months, however, where there are children under 18 years, the grant will be extended for a period no longer than 3 months. Amounts received to date are $1500 per month per family. The ministry has received over 30,000 applications, and thus far, 2991 persons have been paid. An estimated 4000 payments will be made every week.
    Expenditure to date of this initiative is $7,677,000 (Seven million, six hundred and seventy-seven thousand dollars.)
  • Rental Assistance for households that have experienced reduced income from the stay at home measures, a sum of $2500 will be paid for an initial period of 3 months and no more than 6 months. If for some reason the support is needed past this 6-month period, the grant will be reduced to $1500 and then $1000 for any additional months required. The total assistance for rent must not exceed 12 months.
  • Minister Robinson-Regis noted that there have been several instances of people being found trying to commit fraud with the rental assistance grants and from Monday, a new mechanism will be in place to ensure the right people get assistance. The payment will now be made directly to the land lords. Once fraud is discovered, the perpetrators will face the full force of the law.
  • The Minister indicated that persons seeking assistance who were NOT paying NIS but were employed, can apply to the Ministry of Social Development. They would be required to provide one recommender to certify their employment status and other evidence of employment like pay slips.
  • Temporary Income Support for Elderly persons whose applications are outstanding. They will now be provided an interim relief for 3 months pending the finalization of their applications which will amount to $1500 per month. To date 2818 persons benefited from these measures.
    Expenditure to date of this initiative is $12,681,000.
  • Temporary Income Support for disabled persons whose applications are outstanding. They will now be provided an interim relief of $1000 per month which is being delivered already. To date 488 persons benefitted from this measure.
    Expenditure to date of this initiative is $1,464,000.
  • When answering a question regarding the funds granted to faith based organizations, the Minister of Social Development stated that the umbrella bodies for these organizations will receive $10 million per month over a period of 3 months. They are also, all required to sign an agreement and provide bills and receipts to show that the money is being used for the intended purpose.
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