UNC MPs complain of Christmas food card woes

Khadijah Ameen -
Khadijah Ameen -

ST Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen and Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee on Wednesday publicly lamented that some of their needy constituents had been subjected to great inconvenience and embarrassment at supermarket check-outs buying groceries when their government-issued food cards had failed to function.

The two Opposition MPs held a briefing at UNC headquarters in Chaguanas.

Later, the Ministry of Social Development said it was working assiduously with its bank to rectify the problems. Newsday was unable to contact Minister of Social Development Donna Cox.

Each year the ministry issues 200 foods cards to each of TT's 41 MPs to distribute at Christmas to needy families in their constituencies. Each of the 8,000 cards is worth $550.

Ameen said, "First of all a number of MPs had problems getting the food cards. There were a lot of delays.

"Our concern now is while the cards have been issued, when the recipients go to the grocery they are getting a message that the card is invalid or it's not active."

She said it seemed the cards had not been activated.

"So we have hundreds of persons who received the food card, who are desperately in need of making groceries for the Christmas – we are a few days away from the Christmas weekend – and those cards are invalid."

She asked Cox to clarify the situation, so recipients would not be placed in an embarrassing situation upon going to the supermarket, pick up all their groceries and go to the cashier, only for their card to be declined.

"It is very embarrassing and particularly so for a poor person."

Ameen hoped recipients could get their groceries before Christmas.

Lee endorsed Ameen.

"There has been a delay in the delivery of these food cards to MPs.

"I want to put it on the record that I'm assuming it's not only the Opposition MPs who have not gotten their food cards to be able to give out to their constituents. I think it's on both sides of the floor, the PNM and the Opposition."

Lee said he had just got an e-mail from the ministry saying MPs could collect their food cards on Friday, while some like Ameen had already received.

Saying Friday was roughly 48 hours before Christmas, he said MPs will have to make arrangements on Saturday to distribute food cards to deserving constituents.

"It's very nerve-racking to hear Khadijah mentioning that some of the food cards are declining when the constituents go to the supermarket to purchase their goods.

"If those food cards are declining when going to the supermarket, besides being an embarrassing position for those constituents, what is the recourse for these individuals? Do they now have to send back the card to the ministry to reactivate it?"

Lee said it was a very worrying issue.

"I am hoping that the cards that will be issued to MPs on Friday are actually activated."

Lee wished the nation a holy, blessed and merry Christmas on behalf of all UNC MPs led by political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

The ministry issued a statement titled, Christmas food cards delay being rectified, recounting several calls from MPs relating to the delivery and use of the Christmas food cards for 2023.

"In this regard, First Citizens Bank Ltd, the card provider, has been notified of several challenges being experienced and is currently testing solutions to ensure full access is afforded to cardholders throughout TT."

The ministry promised to continue to work assiduously with the bank to rectify the problems in the shortest possible time frame and invited inquiries at its toll-free number at 800-1MSD (1673).


"UNC MPs complain of Christmas food card woes"

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