Barrackpore West Councillor Nicholas Kanhai

As the government rolls out its second COVID-19 social support programme for affected citizens, Barrackpore West councillor Nicholas Kanhai says more has to be done to ensure that the most vulnerable benefits from those grants.

In a release, Kanhai complained that 57 per cent of the people within his district who applied for various grants last year did not receive them.

He said his office printed, completed, scanned the forms and the relevant documents and emailed them for the applicants to the relevant ministries.

Kanhai said they applied for rental assistance, public assistance, temporary food card support and the salary relief grant.

However, he said 82 residents received the grants while 109 others never heard from the ministry.

Concerned over the announcement that the COVID-19 Income Support Grant & Salary Relief Grant applications will be available in the coming days, he said, “The economy never got a chance to recover from last year which means much more families have suffered a loss of income or even total unemployment. The volume of applications will be overwhelming and it is available only for the month of May.”

Now, with the country under a state of emergency, he questioned, “If these grants are designed to assist the most vulnerable in society, is it really accessible to them? You are causing people to flock to an office to get assistance? Counterproductive?”

He complained that the government has completely excluded them from the process. Since the lockdown measures were announced, he has received over 500-plus requests for food support from the most vulnerable in his district.

“The numbers are growing every day. We need to ensure that families that are in the greatest need receive the greatest support.”

He added that their efforts must be geared towards sustaining life and not further increasing people’s vulnerability.”

At a recent press conference, Imbert announced that 20,000 people are eligible for the income support and salary relief grants which will only be accessible to people affected in May.

He said people who lost employment in the beginning of the month would receive $1,500 while those who lost their income within the last “couple of days” would receive $1,000.

Up to last month, Imbert said the ministry paid out 85,447 salary relief grants. However, he said 7,000 people who were approved still have not received the funds because of problems with their bank information.

Imbert said they will be paid with debit cards.