LA Brea MP Nicole Olivierre said her phone has been ringing non-stop as she helps constituents get social relief during the covid19 lockdown, during which many people have lost their jobs.
Carefully choosing when to open her constituency office, she said her phone number is posted prominently on a sign outside so people can call her to get food cards issued in place of school meals.
“When we get a batch of food cards, we call people in. We try to stagger the times. We set it up so the process takes two-three minutes and no one would have to be here for more than half-hour.
“We focus on efficiency. The less time people spend in the office is the better for all concerned.”
Olivierre said she has been getting cards in small batches.
“My phone has been ringing non-stop by people asking if their names are on the list. We try to distribute it widely through the constituency. I have two offices, so I split the batches to distribute half at one office on one day and half at the other.”
Her focus has been on distributing the cards as evenly as possible across her constituency and different schools.
“We also had a small number of hampers to give out to people who are not getting food cards.”
Newsday asked about another issues her constituents may be facing such as water-supply woes.
“In some areas people had difficulties, like Santa Flora. So I have liaised directly with WASA. They work very well and understand the situation. They have been very prompt with their water trucking.”
Newsday asked how she had been doing personally during the lockdown.
“Sewing has been a hobby of mine before I entered politics. So I sat down and made some masks for myself and my family.
“Every day I try to send a social media message to my constituents – to wash hands and maintain social distancing.”
Olivierre wished everyone a Happy Easter, which she said is a significant time for Christians.
“I had to cancel a sports day due for Monday. It will be a very unusual Easter for us, as Easter is a time when everyone gets together for a whole lot of activities.”
COUVA SOUTH MP HAILS STAFF
Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh paid special tribute to his office staff for working long hours and weekends to help needy constituents who have lost their jobs or whose small businesses have taken a hit.
“We have assisted 550-600 people so far, filling out the forms.”
Of the many documents being required, he quipped, “You feel like you are going to the embassy for a visa, with a seven-page application.”
He said not everyone can access application forms online for the salary relief programme.
"Not to be condescending, but some people on minimum wage don’t have money to buy food, far less to pay an internet service provider.
“This is where my staff come in. We have helped people upload forms.”
Saying people can no longer contact their former employers, he said his councillors have acted as endorsers of their status as worthy applicants.
“I have had to deal with WhatsApp, calls, you name it, and so have my office staff.
“They are putting themselves at risk in a labour of love to reach out to people who have been laid off or whose businesses have collapsed. We must be real – people live from pay cheque to pay cheque and cannot say they are going to the bank to take out any savings.”
Indarsingh said the Ministry of Social Development’s responsibility to distribute relief has been shifted to MPs.
“But in Couva South we have shouldered the responsibility. My staff is paid no overtime by Parliament, but they come out to work on weekends.”
He said so far he has got 197 food cards, but his constituency has thousands of families of schoolchildren registered for school meals.
“I don’t know how many more we’ll get.”
The MP said people are coming daily to say their child is registered, but many of them are not on the list of recipients sent by the Ministry of Education. He is now compiling a list to cross-check against the ministry's list.
“We must reconcile it.”
He said he wants no one to be sent before the law courts on any charge of flouting the rules.
“I don’t want any fallout in an election year.”