Senators Debate Unemployment Relief Programme - 04/29/20 11:25 AM
The online portal for the Unemployment Relief Programme was closed on Friday, April twenty-fourth. More than eighty thousand applications for assistance were received, but less than half of that number was approved. There have been complaints that the government’s effort to provide financial assistance to needy families has been sluggish. P.U.P. Senator Michel Chebat echoed that complaint today during the Sitting of the Senate. Chebat says that thousand of Belizeans continue to wait for their food packages.
Michel Chebat, Lead P.U.P. Senator
“According to the Prime Minister eighty-eight thousand people have applied for the unemployment benefit. That program after one month has now been closed. Of the righty eight thousand people thirty three thousand seven hundred and seventy one applications have been approved but only twenty three thousand six hundred and eighty have actually been paid out. Only twenty seven percent of those persons who have asked for help have actually received the help. Secondly Mister President, no food. No food. People have not been receiving the food packages they have been asking for. People don’t have the money to go out and buy the food. They dint have jobs to get money but yet a month later they are still waiting for the food packages Mr. President. They either have to call Human Services or go online and fill out a form to see if they quality to receive food. What is wrong with us? We have people waiting weeks and weeks to get an answer and yet many of them are still waiting. Mr. President I challenge this government to show us, to show the people of Belize how they decided who gets a food package. People complain that they have not been receiving it. But yet they have seen supporters of the U.D.P. getting.”
Michael Peyrefitte, U.D.P. Senator
“What is the senator trying to say when there is no food? Just because it is a sound byte? You have the best distribution of food going on in this country right now to bridge the gap between those who got displaced because of COVID-19. Are people just to line and fleece the system when you are asking for financial assistance? You must qualify. So some people don’t qualify for the COVID financial assistance and some people genuinely do. We have to give our priority to those who genuinely do. What exactly is the complaint of the PUP? What are they really driving at? Since this thing came we have eighteen cases. Only ten remain positive. What exactly is your problem? Really.”
P.U.P. on the Closure of Unemployment Relief Fund
Senator Michel Chebat decried in the senate the politicization of the food programmes to needy families during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. This afternoon, the P.U.P. said it was disappointed at the closure of the Government’s Unemployment Relief Fund last Friday. According to a release, below fifty percent of those who applied had not received any assistance and thousands more are waiting to get the two or three hundred dollars to make ends meet. In respect of the food programmes, eight thousand of the thirty-one thousand applicants were approved, representing only a fraction of those who applied. Thousands of families are still clamouring for food even though it has now come to light that ten million dollars have been set aside for the programme. The P.U.P. also notes that COVID-19 is revealing the real unemployment figures which do not correspond to the touted figures by the government. It states, “This is less, the doing of any COVID-19 pandemic and more the result of a systemic governance failure, chronic corruption and unchecked gluttony by those trusted to lead the nation.” The opposition party also denounces the decision to reject offers from organizations such as the Belize Red Cross to assist at a time when relief must not be tied to politics.