Minister of Social Development and Family Services (MSDFS), Camille Robinson-Regis, has given more detail on the social support measures to be implemented—from Wednesday 25 March 2020—to assist the vulnerable persons in society, who are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The minister gave the update during Government’s Press Conference on its strategy to monitor and mitigate the impacts of the COVID 19, Coronavirus.

The key measures the minister reported on, follow…

Food Support to families with children registered to receive meals under the School Feeding Programme and do not have a Food Card:

All 41 MPs have been contacted to visit the MSDFS Head Office to receive the Food Support Cards valued at $510.  This represents 2,050 families/households and will be implemented as an immediate measure in the first instance. Each Household/family will receive one card.  Each person will be required to sign a statutory declaration that they are not presently in receipt of a Food Card.  Recipients are asked NOT to dispose of their Temporary Card as these cards will be topped up for an additional two (2) months during the month of April, 2020. 

Existing Food Card Recipients will also receive their top up during the month of April;

The Ministry will continue to work with the Members of Parliament who will be given Food Support Cards to distribute to the remainder of families who are registered on the School Feeding Programme but did not obtain a Card in the initial batch of 50 Cards.  Each person who collects a card on behalf of a family will be expected to sign a statutory declaration

Persons who are Retrenched, Terminated and now experiencing Reduced Income:

Where there are persons who are retrenched, terminated or experiencing a reduced income, Temporary Food Support Cards valued at $510 will be issued for a period of three months;

For persons who are in need of income support, the MSDFS will work with the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development to capture data to verify the employment status of persons and to ensure that such persons are not already in receipt of Food Cards.

Accommodation

Rental Assistance will be provided to the value of 2,500 per month for a period of three (3) months initially, and up to six (6) months as required.  

If this support is required beyond the six months, the Rental Assistance Grant will be reduced to $1,500 and then to a further reduction of $1,000.00, for any additional months required.

The total period of rental assistance must not exceed twelve (12) months.

Financial Support for Persons on Public Assistance and Disability Assistance Grants

Additional financial support to recipients of the Public Assistance and Disability Assistance Grants (including the DAG for children).

A top up equivalent to the sum of the full three (3) months, depending on the size of the family, to be paid by April 15, 2020. Payment sums per month are $150.00, $300.00 or $450.00 depending on the size of the household. Specifically, persons inclusive of children, who receive DAG will get a top up of $150 per month for the three (3) months.

Socially Displaced Persons

The MSDFS, working with the Ministry of Health (MOH), the TTPS and the Local Government bodies, will institute the “move along system” for street dwellers to come off the streets and go to shelters.  

Additional financial support will be provided to NGOs that operate these shelters to ensure that they are equipped to provide enough meals for this anticipated increase.  MSDFS will be working with NGOs to ensure that socially displaced persons are provided with additional subsistence. 

The MSDFS will be continuously working with the TTPS, the Regional Corporations and the MOH to help remove these persons off the street.

Establishment of MSDFS Call Centre

A Call Centre will be established at the MSDFS Head Office to address calls coming in regarding the social support measures.  The Ministry’s toll free number: 800–1MSD(1673) is to be used for this purpose;

The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services wishes to assure the national community that these measures are being instituted to ensure that the vulnerable populations are protected and supported during the COVID-19 crisis.  The Ministry wishes to thank the banking sector for the special arrangements put in place for persons with disabilities and elderly persons from the period March 25th – April 3rd where special banking hours and personnel will be assigned to deal with this target audience.

The Ministry wishes to state that guidelines for these measures will be publicized to inform the national community of the procedures to access them by Wednesday March 25th. Application forms will be posted on the websites of both the Ministries of Social Development and Family Services and Labour and Small Enterprise Development; and TTConnect.

In order to expedite the number of persons who are awaiting home visits by Officers of the MSDFS, particularly for persons with applications for Public Assistance and Food Support, payments of these grants will be made to recipients in the short term for a period of three (3) months initially, following which the house visits will be conducted to ensure that these recipients are eligible for the above-mentioned support.

Persons requiring additional information should contact the Ministry at 623 – 2608; Ext 5429 or call the Ministry’s toll-free hotline at 800 – 1MSD (1673).