Covid19 has not only caused hundreds of people to be on the breadline, but it is also causing children to go hungry. Some 79,000 children are enrolled in the School Feeding Programme and they depend on meals they receive at school, but with school out for the month, many of these children have gone hungry.
To mitigate this, the Social Development Ministry has instituted a food card programmed aimed specifically at parents of these children who are enrolled in the schools feeding programme.
The ministry had asked for the names of students who are enrolled, and for principals to identify those who were most in need. Education Minister Anthony Garcia said there are some students who receive school meals, but there are some who are more in need than others.
The lists were sent to all Members of Parliament and they were asked to provide food cards to parents who reside in the constituency who were most in need. Garcia assured that all those who needed the food cards will get access to them.
Social Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, in a release on Tuesday, dispelled rumours that the social support grants were difficult to access. The ministry has disbursed $46 million to those who need food support, public assistance and disability assistance and families with children of the food programme.
She said the ministry has received over 4,000 applications for processing and directives to commence payments were sent to banks on April 9. Although the procedure involved only electronic transfer of applications to avoid social contact, access forms were made available on the websites of all government ministries and agencies, and at local municipal corporations and social welfare district offices.
Robinson-Regis said application forms were also available at selected police stations throughout TT and completed forms should be returned to the social welfare district offices closest to where the applicants resides.
People can also receive assistance from the ministry’s call centre and through the TTConnect Chat Box facility for completion of the form. The minister said procedures for application may seem stringent, but this was put in place to avoid instances of fraud and to ensure that payments were made to the correct bank accounts.
Port-of-Spain South MP Marlene McDonald has advised her constituents that contrary to what they were told by principals, she did not have any food cards at this time for distribution to the children on the school feeding programme.
She said all cards received so far have been distributed to all those so qualified. McDonald said while she understand that many people were depending on the cards, she asked that they be patient as Government continued to do its work.
Chairman of the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation Dr Allen Sammy, said there was rising anger amongst residents in Barrackpore after they could not find their names on the list for temporary food support relief. He said parents of children who benefited from the school feeding programme have also not received the food card relief.
The former is distributed by the Disaster Management Unit of the corporation and the latter by the MP’s offices. Sammy said 210 families have lost their jobs and none have received any relief. He said the councillors were being abused daily as residents vented their anger on them.
He said the councillors have been using their own resources to purchase hampers for families. Sammy said one councillor, Brian Julien, said “The Government is failing to meet its commitment to the people and deflecting their managerial incompetence unto the councillors.”