A police officer speaks with persons waiting in line outside the Tunapuna Social Service Centre, Eastern Main Road,Tunapuna, yesterday.

More food cards for children within the School Feeding Programme will be distributed next Tuesday and arrangements are being made to give hampers to children who don’t receive these food cards.

In addition, the Social Development Ministry has simplified the process to facilitate support for retrenched workers or those with reduced income amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Social Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis who announced these developments at yesterday’s daily Government media briefing, added, “We know it’s a trying time of angst but we’re here for you and we’ll get through this together. But we must work together.”

Yesterday morning’s health bulletin showed 919 COVID-19 samples were done with 107 cases and eight deaths.

Giving an update on Government’s social support measures to assist those affected by the restrictions, she said her Ministry has “touched the lives” of over 226, 000 people since March 1.

The ministry’s expenditure so far for measures is already over $ 46 million, she added.

Provisions include food card support for children in the School Feeding Programme. When the programme started, several MPs—on PNM and UNC sides—had said the number of cards was insufficient. Robinson-Regis said an initial batch of 50 cards was given on March 25 to each MP to distribute. Children’s parents are contacted to make appointments to collect the cards.

After the first, another batch of 47 was issued subsequently. On April 2, MPs received a further batch of 100 cards.

“The next batch of 3,323 cards will be delivered to MPs next Tuesday,” Robinson-Regis added. “To date, the majority has been distributed to constituents. I’m asking MPs who haven’t yet collected cards, to do so now as it’s important for constituents.”

The Education Ministry facilitates a list for MPs to go through with principals to see which children are most in need and access those children first to ensure that most, if not all, are covered.

“If we don’t have enough food cards for all families, we’re in the process of working with groceries to ensure we provide hampers of the same value or close to this, to ensure these families are taken care of.”

Robinson-Regis said MPs were advised to distribute cards to people living in their constituency.

Expenditure for facilitating 8,077 food cards for those within the School Feeding Programme has so far cost $12.3 million.

Robinson-Regis said approximately 4,000 applications have been received for Income and Food Support grants for people who were retrenched, terminated or are receiving reduced income amid the crisis.

The minister said applications are being validated. Payments begin today. The category also includes self-employed. Successful applicants will receive direct deposit to their bank account or cheque via TTPost.

She said some people are having difficulty getting employers to say they’re employed, “In those circumstances, the process is now simplified: we’re asking people who can’t get employer verification to give two recommenders who can certify your employment status.”

Forms for this assistance are on the Ministry’s website. Also, over 5,000 application forms for employees and the self-employed will be distributed at police stations this afternoon.

Robinson-Regis listed expenditure on other forms of assistance costing approximately $11million each for some categories and assisting numbers up to 25,000. Each municipality has 100 emergency food support hampers to distribute.