JIS News

Vulnerable persons and those adversely affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are to benefit from a $1-billion national food drive being implemented by the Government.

Through the initiative, dubbed the ‘CARE Package Food Drive’, between 200,000 and 250,000 food baskets will be distributed to targeted persons under the Government’s COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Programme, which is being expanded with a further budgetary allocation of $5.3 billion.

This was announced by Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, as he opened the debate on the first Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for the 2021/22 fiscal year in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (October 12).

He noted that the initiative, which is a public-private partnership, will target persons who are outside of the formal processes to which the Government has access.

“At this time in the pandemic where we are seeing the effects – food prices are up – we are going to respond in a massive way,” the Minister said.

Dr. Clarke added that the size of the packages, in terms of whether the cost of items will amount to $4,000, $5,000 or another figure, will be finalised at a later time.

This social assistance intervention is to be undertaken by the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, in collaboration with Parliamentarians and Councillors.

Dr. Clarke noted, as well, that it will be carried out in partnership with non-State institutions such as churches, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and the private sector, “which might be closer to citizens who are outside of the formal processes [of the Government]”.

The Minister stressed that persons who are deemed vulnerable are not only persons in identifiable vulnerable communities, noting that “there are vulnerable persons who sit down in… church who are not from vulnerable communities. We want to reach them too”.

“We are going to be working with our counterparts in the church movement who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic who are close to their congregants and who know people who are in need and are vulnerable,” he said.

Dr. Clarke informed that he will provide further details on the arrangement once it has been finalised.

In the meantime, the Minister noted that under the expanded CARE Programme, $100 million will be allocated to the Poor Relief Department in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, “so that they can step up their activities and meet the needs of that element of society”.

“Not to be left out, $100 million [will also be provided] for the Public Assistance Department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security,” he said.

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