Pan chicken vendor hopeful for COVID-19 cash grant
Rohan ‘Nackas’ Simmons has been perplexed since the closure of his food basket, a community jerk weekend pop up kitchen, over the last four weeks, due to the deadly coronavirus.
The past weekend was a sombre moment for Simmons, who is accustomed to serving up jerk cuisine to his faithful customers.
The nightly curfew order which began on April 1 has been extended, and has dealt a fatal blow to nightly vending.
According to the part-time football coach, he is hopeful that after he submits an application to the Government for compassionate grant, favour will be found in his submission.
Simmons said, “Me nuh go out four weeks now true di coronavirus. Mi did a watch the news a foreign and tek a break earlier, and jus’ educate myself and tek the necessary precautions.”Minister of finance and the public service, Dr Nigel Clarke, said the Government’s $10-billion COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) programme is slated for roll-out today, when target beneficiaries are invited to commence submitting applications.
Dr Clarke said all applications should be made online on the finance ministry’s website – www.mof.gov.jm – once they have the requisite qualifying information.
This was announced during a digital press conference at Jamaica House on April 3.
CLINGING TO HOPE
Dr Clarke pointed out that the programme is geared towards vulnerable individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19, and Simmons is clinging to hopes.
He told The Gleaner, “On a bad week, I can mek a $20,000 if things nuh move fast.”
Simmons, the holder of a food handler’s permit, his only certification, has been selling at the corner of Great George Street and Sarah Street in Allman Town, central Kingston, for over two years.
He hopes the government-issued permit can bind his efforts as the Government has advised of criteria to include proper identification of individuals.
The initiative aims to provide financial assistance to workers and businesses impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic and forms part of the Government’s $10-billion CARE programme.
Dr Clarke said, “Persons will be required to submit information that identifies them: their name, taxpayer registration number (TRN), phone number … as well as information about their bank accounts. Payments will be made automatically to the bank accounts, once those have been verified and validated.”
The minister also advised that applicants who do not possess bank accounts will have the option of suggesting a remittance company of their choice, “where the funds could be directed and for them to collect those funds on producing identification that matches the TRN on the application”.
Simmons, who supports his close-knit family, told The Gleaner that he was pleased with the response to small businesses, and says he hopes to qualify as there is no telling when things will get back to normal.
He said, “Mi nuh see it a slow down fi put a projected time to things go back normal. Mi predict about late June before that happen.”
Simmons told The Gleaner that he will miss the holidays this month as April is usually one of his busiest periods.
He said, “People usually home or up and about during holidays. You have people weh jus cook dem rice and just come fi dem chicken.”
Dr Clarke reiterated that there is also a segment targeting small businesses across Jamaica, which can qualify once their taxes have been paid and they have employees who qualify for a one-time grant.
“We’ll have a … benefit called a compassionate grant for which any Jamaican can apply, as long as that Jamaican is not formally employed [nor] receiving a benefit from any other component of the CARE programme,” Dr Clarke told JIS.
He further indicated that there will also be benefits for persons who perform functions normally and are registered with municipal corporations.
They include barbers and hairdressers, beauty therapists and cosmetologists, bar owners and nightclub owners/operators.
The grants range from $20,000 to $40,000.