A San Fernando West consitituent leaves the the office of the MP Faris Al-Rawi on Independence Avenue, San Fernando, yesterday with relief hampers which were donated by NAMDEVCO in partnership with the Ministry of Social Development. KRISTIAN DE SILVA

Finance Minister Colm Imbert yesterday listed $5 billion worth of help the Government has given to citizens to deal with the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But he has warned that “now we are not, as a Government or a country, able to do all of this again.”

What the Finance Ministry is able to do Imbert said is find money to help citizens who have lost their jobs or had their income cut because of the government’s COVID-19 measures get through this month.

“So for persons who lost employment at the beginning of May because of the restrictions put in at that time on the hospitality industry, in particular, we will provide a grant of $1500. And for persons why may have lost their employment just in the last couple days we will provide a grant for $1000 and that is just for the month of May,” Imbert said during a virtual press conference held by the Finance Ministry yesterday.

At least 20,000 people are expected to be eligible for the two grants, Imbert said.

The grants are budgeted to cost tax

Up to last month, Imbert said the Finance Ministry paid out 85,447 Salary Relief Grants.

There are still, however, 7,000 people who were approved who still have not received the funds because of problems with their bank information.

These people will be paid with debit cards, Imbert said.

One issue that the arose out of the two grants is that people were “double dipping”to get funds, Imbert said.

The Salary Relief Fund was managed by the Finance Ministry to assist those registered on the National Insurance Board system, while the Income Support Grant managed by the Ministry of Social Development was meant to assist those who were not officially registered.

Beause of the “double dipping” Imbert said more stringent measures will be put in place to ensure the funds are protected.

As a result he said payments may take a little longer to be processed this time around.

Applications will now be done online.

During yesterday’s press conference Imbert also addressed the issue of possible grants for citizens stranded outside of T&T.

“With respect to grants for persons who are stranded overseas that is not something we are contemplating at this point in time but now that you have raised it I will certainly give consideration to it but I can give no guarantee at this point in time because we are focusing on people at this time who are in Trinidad and Tobago but certainly that is something I will discuss with colleagues,” he said.

Imbert also announced that the Government has secured a Euro 170 million loan with China a portion of which will go toward the payment for the Sinopharm vaccine.