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10M Food Relief Program Activated #541707
04/16/20 05:21 AM
04/16/20 05:21 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 72,021
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Last night we told you that the COVID-19 Unemployment Relief Program has received 62,706 applications and, up to yesterday, 7,247 applications had been processed for payment.

Approximately 7,500 additional applications are currently being processed and should be ready for approval, in stages. But for many thousands of jobless Belizeans, relief has been too slow to come.

That's why lines upon lines were formed across the country today.

Over 4000 people picked their food pantry with the usual $12.00 charge waived, but there's also a new program called "food packages" in which government pays local grocers to hand out $150 dollars worth of grocery packages to qualifying persons every two weeks.

It's a 10 million dollar social relief program to provide relief to the most needy during the COVID crisis and we found out more about it today:

Cherisse Halsall reporting
Lines have become a common site in COVID-19 Belize and this morning we saw bank lines, amazingly long credit union lines, and even Western Union lines.

But what about bread lines? If those haven't been a common site that began to change today because Food packages along with enhanced food pantries started to go out in what is looking like a massive deployment of social assistance. But what are Packages and Pantries? Minister Anthony Boots Martinez broke that down for us today.

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"It's a food pantry and food package, there's a difference: the food pantry is the regular food pantry for people who were on food pantry. The food packages is for people who need help and its sort of it's 6 of one and half a dozen of the other because what we did with the food pantry is to bring it on par with the food package now a food package entails ten pounds of rice, ten pounds of beans, 10 pounds of sugar, five pounds of white sugar, two chicken, two things of baking powder four bathing soap, two Clorox, two soap powder, fruits and vegetables, two condense milk."

Jules Vasquez:
"So who is eligible for it and who is getting it? How many people?"

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez, Minister of Human Development
"Well, right now at this point you need to call in or go on the website for the ministry of human development then they interview you. People who are not eligible are the people that will get the $150.00, public officers, including teachers policemen and so and if you are on boost or pantry and it is for everybody, PUP, UDP, no kind a P, Jehovah Witness, Catholic, Muslim, everybody, and that's why it's the Ministry doing the assessment because we need to account for it in terms of the IFI so government can get back their money."

Jules Vasquez:
"You must have a say you could send your people they from Port Loyola and say put ah in for me."

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"Let me tell you how the process works. I can't send anybody because nobody is walking physically you could call in when you call in the people they call you back and give an interview give your name and everything and they have a lot of people from Port Loyola who is not qualified because they are on pantry and boost so you just have to be real it's not me who makes the assessment the people they call you back and give you an interview, as a matter a fact we have cases where teachers apply, public officers apply, even in a guise but when we have the system tied into boost pantry, the unemployment benefit, who all is getting a pension from social security. Pensioners to a certain extent are exempted from the program so it's not, it's not, the thing is the assessment has to be right if we are to help the needy people in this country."

And while we can't swear for COVID procedures, according to this woman on a normal basis It is your area rep who secures you a pantry card.

Participant 1
"It's your Minister which would be your area representative established the card to your name and after that every week you have to get $12 and you purchase it at the back of this building and that's how you get the bag of stuff: the rice, beans, flour, cabbage, potatoes - you received from back there."

Cherisse Halsall;
"So how did you hear that it was gonna be free from this point?"

Participant 1
"My son has a phone though which is Kenton Galvez, he said mom the 3 establishments who we usually get pantry from, those are the ones who will be giving the pantries free."

Cherisse Halsall:
"How difficult has it been trying to secure supplies at this time?"

Participant 1
"Right now it's not too bad, but the way how everything is operating for a single mom who don't have a job, I would really appreciate like 5 bags."

But those eligible for Food packages are being vetted by the Ministry of Human Development in a scheme meant to help consumers and their local grocery stores.

Hon. Anthony "Boots" Martinez
"For example if you don't get approval from the Ministry Of Human Development you can't get any package. Package no di give out like that where people are going around in a truck asking if you need help."

But people are still complaining and this morning we met a woman standing in Pantry lines who was upset about a rice shortage and her exclusion from the first free pantry.

Participant 2
"They are giving away pantry right back here is $12 for a pantry, but what I don't like with this government or whosoever set this rule that once you buy last week you can't no groceries this week. Miss what I buy last week done from last week. Last week is last week. If they are giving away the thing then give it away to the people. This week is free and I am supposed to get my pantry. I am not supposed to wait until next week and they already ran out of rice. So what will I get next week? I am here from 6am this morning, until I heard after 11am that you can't get, because you buy last week. That is not fair."

Up to this evening, the Ministry was still crunching the numbers on how many packages had been authorised and picked up today. Also, we note that with poetry prices reduced, the food pantry and food package programs, should use up about 12,000 chickens in the coming weeks.

Of course, questions of transparency concerning the 10-18Million dollars slated for this program invariably arise. Jules Vasquez put those questions to Boots Martinez today and we'll have that for you later in the news.

Channel 7

Re: 10M Food Relief Program Activated [Re: Marty] #541725
04/17/20 05:18 AM
04/17/20 05:18 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 72,021
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Relief Food Packages Will Go To Corner Stores

As we discussed last night, the food package program is being initially funded with 10 million dollars to feed what could work out to be three thousand or more households countrywide with a bi weekly package.

The idea is to make these packages available at neighbourhood groceries where the Ministry of Human Development would provide them with shopping lists to be filled:

Hon. Anthony Boots Martinez - Min. Human Dev.
"What the participating stores are asked to do we send you a list of what we are interested to buy from you. You send us your price and then we will say to you these prices are too high because in real truth it's like we're saying give us a discount because it's almost cash your buying from us so price gouging we try to stay away from and we try to open it to as many stores that can participate countrywide and have the capability and the capacity to deliver the goods and services."

Channel 7

Re: 10M Food Relief Program Activated [Re: Marty] #541791
04/20/20 04:17 AM
04/20/20 04:17 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 72,021
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

The Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation in conjunction with the operators of the Food Pantry Distribution Centres, have made changes for the smoother distribution of the food packages.

In the wake of concerns over social distancing raised by crowds gathering to collect 'pantry' late last week, the Ministry of Human Development has announced a new system based on last names.

Starting tomorrow Monday, April 20, 2020 the distribution will be done based on surnames. The same system will be operated at all the distribution centres.

It is expected that with this new system they will be able to cut down on the amount of persons being at the distribution centres on any given day.

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Re: 10M Food Relief Program Activated [Re: Marty] #541814
04/21/20 05:03 AM
04/21/20 05:03 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 72,021
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Two Sides of the Police/Politician Pantry Clash

On Friday we showed you how Minister of Human Development Anthony "Boots" Martinez ran to the rescue of the breadlines. The Minister was livid, and wasn't shy about blasting police for, quote, "a lack of social conscience."

And by Saturday there was a rebuttal from Commissioner of Police Chester Williams who said that assertions made by Minister Martinez were completely wrong and that his officers were well within their authority to close the pantries.

But were the police pulling an "ambush in the night" on the Belizean people or just doing their best to promote necessary social distancing? We heard opposing views from the Minister and Commissioner..

Anthony "Boots" Martinez, Minister of Human Development
"The policemen came and closed down the Salvation Army Pantry illegally. This is a legit business that operates food. It is entitled to work from 8am until 4pm in the evening, the people must maintain social distance. You hear the cry for food for people, you hear the cry that people want a little food how will you turn back people in the legit hours and my problem with it is the police, I could tell you, have no legal authority under the law so the commissioner needs to be careful of not having the policemen breaking the law."

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"This is not a time for us to be fighting against each other. We need to work together, and the Minister from my understanding of the law was completely wrong. The state of emergency regulations did not make any provision for pantry programs to run. I heard him say that they can open until 4pm if they so wish and that the police cannot stop them. Let me say that the pantry program is not a store, is not a convenience store, is not a shop. It is a delivery of goods or it is the provision of goods."

Anthony "Boots" Martinez, Minister of Human Development
"I am terribly upset and you see sometimes I wonder if there is a social conscience, Sir. Like for example all Public servants including police people have been paid, a lot of them don't have anything to eat and then you're stopping them from getting something to eat, sir. I have a problem with that."

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"We understand the need for the pantry program we understand that people cannot be locked up in their homes and don't have nothing to eat and so we are compromising in the sense that we will work with the pantry people to ensure that those who come to the pantry maintain social distance."

Anthony "Boots" Martinez, Minister of Human Development
"They say instruction came from above of which nobody can't tell you what kind of instruction or what law came from above when I came out here the corporal said to me instruction comes from above but how the thing can work like that?"

"They were closing down Wellworth, they closed down Samuel Haynes, they closed down Salvation Army at Oleander Street with no authority."

Jules Vasquez:
"You believe they were well within their rights to shut down that Pantry?"

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"By law yes they were but I had given previous instructions following discussion with my minister that we were to allow it to occur but apparently that instruction was not trickled down so the officers who were on the ground did what the law authorizes them to do which was to close down and so they were not wrong. They were perfectly right in so doing."

Jules Vasquez:
"So then if they were not wrong that means that the minister was wrong."

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"Of course the minister was wrong."

Angel Noble:
"Under whose instructions they opened it again?"

Anthony "Boots" Martinez, Minister of Human Development
"Under my instructions for two reasons, because the police were acting illegally so they do not undermine, I just tell people that you have your rights. The police cannot close you down."

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"Myself and my minister have agreed that we are going to facilitate the pantry program but at the same time I also want to make it clear that members of the security forces are out there day and night leaving their homes, leaving their families, coming out and putting themselves at risk of contracting the virus and they come to work everyday motivated as the managers it is our duty to keep our officers motivated as the managers it is our duty to keep motivated with a very high morale at this time. It is needed and if I am not going to stand up for my officers then who will."

The Ministry of Human Development is listed in Schedule two of the state of emergency regulations as one of those entities that may operate between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm.

Nevertheless, in an effort to reduce lines and ensure social distancing at the Pantries the Ministry of Human Development has released a new pantry schedule. Now, patrons will only be able to pick up their grocery items in the timespan allotted to them based on an alphabetical system.

Channel 7

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