Wednesday, April 29, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica— Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke, indicated last night that the Government is considering reopening applications for compassionate grants.

However, Dr Clarke admitted that there were challenges in handling the over 402,000 applications for the one off $10,000 grant for unemployed persons, and therefore, there could only be room for a “moderate” increase.

Dr Clarke, who was responding to questions from the Opposition about the sudden closure of applications for the $10,000 grant, which assists vulnerable Jamaicans affected by the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), said that while it is a justified call for others to benefit from the grant, it would test the capacity of the Government system.

“I wholeheartedly share the concerns expressed, not just by Opposition members but by Government members as well, about the closure of the compassionate grant applications under the care programme,” the finance minister told the House of Representatives, last night.

However, Dr Clarke admitted that there were some obstacles to achieving any sizeable addition to the current commitments, which the government intends to review prior to a possible reopening of the applications.

He noted that, for example, that there were over 402,000 applications for the one-off compassionate grant already received, and with the level of processing required it would not be an easy task.

“There was no processing of payments anywhere in Jamaica, at any time in our history, that has even come close to 402,000,” he noted.

He said that it will take time to process large numbers of applications already in hand, and recalled that the verification is a two-way process, where text message and e-mails are sent out to applicants and they may need to adjust things.

He added that while verification is essential, there are fixed capacity limits to that kind of interaction.

Another challenge was that over 158,000 of the applicants for the grant chose receiving payment through remittances companies, which requiresphysical collection with photo identifications and application reference numbers.

Balford Henry

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