Tracy Davidson-Celestine

Secretary in the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development, Tracy Davidson-Celestine is publicly appealing to landlords in Tobago to delay on evicting tenants who have applied for rental assistance with the Tobago House of Assembly.

According to the Secretary, the payments are in train and the process is also heavily dependent on information supplied by the landlords themselves. The appeal came through a letter read on behalf of the Secretary at the latest Tobago Regional Health Authority, COVID-19 Update press conference.

“These are tough times for persons who are renting who have lost jobs and businesses and people are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. We continue to provide support through the rental assistance programme. We want to appeal to the landlords, if your tenant has applied to the Division for rental assistance, we encourage you to hold your hand a bit to avoid eviction.”

The correspondence went on to state that “at one time we are processing hundreds (of applications) and it takes some time to verify the paperwork – sometimes it may take a little longer than expected. We assure members of the public that our team is doing all that we can.”

She also called on landlords to assist with the process by providing information in a timely manner as the property owners to assist with processing the application faster.

The correspondence closed by stating that there “is no set time frame as there may be moving parts during the pandemic”, while the Division tries to make the payments in the shortest possible time.

The issue of grant assistance was also discussed during this week’s Post-Executive Council news conference by Finance and Economy Secretary Joel Jack, who said that thus far there has been no distribution of the latest tranche grants in Tobago.

“The process is well in train in terms of persons applying and receiving the necessary assistance in the Tobago House of Assembly. We continue to work with the various ministries to ensure that persons receive the necessary support.”

According to Jack, the THA’s response to those negatively affected by the pandemic continues to be “immediate and targeted” to ensure that the THA continues to address the vulnerable and at risk.

Within recent weeks, members of the Executive Council of the Tobago House of Assembly came under fire for inconsistencies in the accounting processes for funds allocated for COVID-19 relief finding for 2020.

During a subsequent press conference Secretary in the Division of Health Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson Celestine announce that from the onset of the pandemic 1,920 food vouchers and 400 hampers have been distributed for a total of $1.5 million, and a total of 900 rental assistance grants have been disbursed totalling $1.3 million.

She said the Division also provided funding for the purchase of basic household appliances for 221 people amounting to $1.3 million.

According to the Secretary, a total of $9 million has been provided in social support to over 3,000 persons since the start of the pandemic.