For the 2019/2020 fiscal year, the Government spent $6.9 billion on cash grants for Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) beneficiaries.
This was disclosed by Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Mike Henry, during his contribution to the 2020/21 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on July 21.
He told the House that the challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) have affected members of the society and it is against this background that the Ministry has decided to review and relax the compliance requirements ordinarily expected of children and pregnant or lactating women.
“We did this to ensure that all PATH beneficiaries received early yet full benefits in April 2020. In addition to that, we made a special payment to PATH families in May 2020 to provide further support to our neediest citizens in a time of economic fallout,” Mr. Henry said.
In addition, following the closure of schools, the Labour Ministry partnered with the Education, Youth and Information Ministry to ensure that additional financial support was provided to PATH beneficiaries, in lieu of the school-feeding programme. A total of $1.3 billion was spent providing additional support.
“PATH children aged three to18 attending early-childhood, primary and secondary schools, received an additional amount on their payments in April and May as part of the school-feeding programme,” Mr. Henry said.
Meanwhile, for the 2020/2021 fiscal year, the Government will be accelerating plans to improve the accessibility of the cash benefits to PATH families.
The Labour and Social Security Minister said up to the April 2020 payment cycle, approximately 85 per cent of PATH families collected their payments in cheques.
“But the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that it is important to have more beneficiaries receive their payments electronically. This is necessary in order to promote social distancing practices and avoid long wait times in public spaces to access the much-needed funds,” Mr. Henry said.
With this in mind, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security will also be facilitating more payment options. This includes direct deposits to bank accounts as well as engaging more service providers to increase access to the benefits.
“We issued a call to the banks for the opening of special low-interest, low fees or no fees bank accounts. I am pleased to announce that, so far, two banks have indicated a willingness to do so. We must ensure financial inclusion for all in the society,” Mr. Henry said.
He added that plans are now in place to renovate the Customer Service Section of the Ministry’s office at 14 National Heroes Circle, in order to improve service delivery to customers.
The renovations will include remodelling of the physical layout, as well as technological upgrades to the communication systems within the Ministry.