Govt prepared for long haul on COVID-19

– COVID-19 Public Assistance Programme being strengthened

Prime Minister, Hon. Brigadier (Ret’d), Mark Phillips said that the PPP/C government is prepared for the long haul in dealing with the Novel Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) pandemic and is organising to improve the effectiveness of its relief measures to vulnerable households that are affected by its economic aftermath.

The Prime Minister was addressing stakeholders at the opening ceremony of a two-day virtual workshop to analyse the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of the phase one implementation of the government’s COVID-19 Public Assistance Programme.

Participating agencies included the National COVID-19 Task Force, the Ministries of Finance, Human Service and Social Security, Local Government and Regional Development (LG&RD) and Amerindian Affairs, the National Data Management Authority and the Civil Defence Commission.

“The reality from all of the reports we have is, that COVID-19 will be with us during the remaining 2020 and well into 2021. Hence today’s workshop is a structured approach, to brainstorm and allow the relevant stakeholders, to be better informed and to conduct one’s operations more efficiently and effectively,” Prime Minister Phillips explained.

He urged all of the participants to garner a ‘No Holds Bar’ approach in highlighting the strengths and weaknesses towards creating an “airtight programme’ going forward.

The COVID-19 Public Assistance Programme caters for the provision of food relief through vouchers in coastal communities and food hampers in more remote villages.

Director-General of the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig explained that during the implementation of the first phase of the programme, several challenges were identified.

He outlined these as including insufficient suppliers, slow procurement process, limited public relation and communication, inadequate monitoring and evaluation and the inability of the most vulnerable to access the programme.

The Director-General said the workshop is simply to strengthen the current programme’s objectives against its outputs, to provide a robust and comprehensive measure which would see the citizens that are most vulnerable and directly impacted by COVID-19 receiving the much-needed support.

The workshop also aims to improve understanding of roles and responsibilities among implementing partners and key stakeholders.

Since its beginning, the COVID-19 Public Assistance Programme has seen 1,754 households shortlisted for vouchers in coastal communities and townships, and 5,101 hinterland households shortlisted for direct food hampers in the first phase of implementation.

According to CDC’s Acting Mitigation and Recovery Manager, Allana Walters, Phase One of the programme is ongoing in terms of the distribution of care packages, encashment of food vouchers and related procurement and accounting activities. However, the application period for food vouchers closed on June 8th, 2020.

Thus far, 1,645 vouchers have been encashed by beneficiaries, while 2,315 care packages have been distributed to hinterland communities in Regions 1, 8 and 9.

As of August 17, 2020, 22,596 new applications have been recorded via the virtual application system which targets food voucher beneficiaries, while the Tier Two or second-line priority hinterland communities are yet to be agreed upon.

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