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COVID-19 relief for essential workers, vulnerable women

by Samuel Sukhnandan

Government will be taking decisive action to support essential workers, victims of gender-based violence and other vulnerable groups of Guyanese facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Minister of Human Services and Social Security Dr. Vindhya Persaud said Monday that this initiative will be piloted in the last quarter of the year and will form part of the government’s response to the pandemic.

According to her, under the Child Care Assistance programme, the government would be providing packages for essential workers ranging from: health care workers, police officers, fire officers, prison officers, army members, and security officials.

“Those workers who are going out everyday under very challenging circumstances and risking their lives in delivering services to all of us across Guyana. So, this initiative will be opened to both frontline workers both in private and public sectors, where direct payments will be made to child care facilities,” she said during a virtual press conference.

Minister Persaud nevertheless noted that there will be certain criteria to be satisfied, such as the children having to be below the age of seven, and direct payments will only be made to licensed child care facilities.

With the initiative expected to be rolled out soon, the minister said it would be reviewed next year and could possibly expand it if the need arises. Application forms will be sent to all employers of these essential workers and it will be placed on the ministry’s website.

Meanwhile, Minister Persaud said that assistance would also be provided to women who are victims of gender-based violence. The ministry will be partnering with the Government of Canada, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office of Climate Change to provide needed assistance.

These persons will receive similar hampers to those COVID-19 assistance and female personal care and sanitary products.

“There is no infinite number of hampers, but we will try to reach out to as many women as we can, based on the information we have at the ministry and with other partner women organisations…We do have women that need that help right now,” she asserted.

In the meantime, the ministry will continue to work closely with the Civil Defense Commision (CDC) and the Office of the Prime Minister which has responsibility for the COVID-19 Task Force.

“We are working to ensure that whatever support or services each ministry can provide is cohesive, so that communities can benefit which will include food hampers, medication. So, whatever the ministry can provide, so that communities can be helped in a holistic way,” the minister added.

Several hampers were delivered to residents of Tiger Bay, Georgetown, on Sunday by President Dr. Irfaan Ali, with support from the Muslim Youth Organisation, an affiliate of the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana.