We wholeheartedly share the concern expressed by some Members of Parliament regarding the closure of Compassionate Grant applications under the Government of Jamaica’s CARE Programme that was announced yesterday.
The CARE Programme was designed with the vital social mission of providing support to the most vulnerable in our society in light of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, we have received approximately 480,000 applications of which approximately 84% (403,000) are for the Compassionate Grant.
Despite the unprecedented number of applications for the Compassionate Grant, we realise that there could still be more persons who may wish to seek assistance from this vital part of the GOJ’s CARE Programme. We therefore fully intend to review a possible reopening of applications for the Compassionate Grant in the future after resolving the following:
1. It will take time to process the large number of applications already in hand. The verification process may involve two-way communication with applicants, by call, text or email, where there are discrepancies in, for example, banking information provided. As everyone will agree, verification is essential but there are fixed capacity limits for this kind of interaction.
2. The Compassionate Grant allows applicants to choose to receive payment through remittance companies. Approximately 158,000 applicants (39%) have requested payment by remittance, which requires physical collection by the applicant with photo identification along with the application reference number. The prospect of 158,000 persons queueing up to receive payments poses certain logistic and health challenges that need to be resolved in light of social distancing protocols now in effect. It is therefore important to institute a pragmatic and efficient process for applicants to collect these payments to ensure it is consistent with the health protocols prior to reopening the Compassionate Grant application window.
3. The approved expenditure budget provides $10 billion that will be used to finance the CARE Programme. Assuming all applications received to date are positively verified, and including the $1.1 billion in additional funding to be allocated to the PATH Programme and the $1.2 billion for Tourism Grants, the CARE Programme is at the limit of the envelope provided. It is important that grants are made to all who apply, who are eligible and who are positively verified. To have that assurance, we cannot run too far ahead of the space reserved for this expenditure. Best practices of public financial management require that the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service seek parliamentary approval prior to allowing the expected grant payout to exceed the space provided by too significant a degree.
After tabling and approval of the upcoming supplementary budget we will review the application window for the Compassionate Grant. Until then though we hope that emphasis will be on the fact that shortly the CARE Programme will provide assistance to just under 500,000 Jamaicans, delivering the broadest and largest social intervention in Jamaica’s history, organized in record time and implemented transparently.