Thu | Sep 24, 2020

Bigger back-to-school benefit for poor children

Published:Wednesday | August 12, 2020 | 12:06 AM
Dr Nigel Clarke, minister of finance and the public service, addressing a sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, August 11.
Dr Nigel Clarke, minister of finance and the public service, addressing a sitting of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, August 11.

Children in poor households will receive up to $8,500 in back-to-school funding to offset the financial fallout suffered by their parents amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke announced in Parliament on Tuesday that the COVID Allocation of Resources to Employees (CARE) Programme has been expanded to provide the subvention to children registered within the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) and Poor Relief welfare.

However, Opposition Spoke­sperson on Finance Mark Golding said he was disappointed in Clarke’s pronouncements.

“All of us were hoping and expecting an announcement that would involve additional funds being made available by way of relief in this most difficult back-to-school period,” Golding said.

He said that while he welcomed the $5,000 per student on PATH and those on Poor Relief, there are many families that need more help.

“There is nothing in this ... . I would advise the minister to wheel and come again. It is not sufficient,” Golding continued.

Clarke said that the Government had, over the last two years, provided a back-to-school grant to PATH students. That benefit, the finance minister said, has been increased.

“Because of the COVID pandemic, Government will, for this fiscal year, provide overall back-to-school grants of $8,500 per student at the primary- and secondary-education level,” Clarke said.

Additionally, Clarke said that the Government would provide grants valued at $5,000 to every child at the early childhood level within PATH and Poor Relief.

He said that there had not been any support for students at that level before.

“This means that those provisions under the CARE component will serve to increase the programmed PATH amount for students at the primary and secondary levels from $3,500 to $8,500 per student while providing the $8,500 for each primary and secondary Poor Relief student,” said Clarke.

Where students are on both the PATH and Poor Relief programmes, the back-to-school grant will be made by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development with the usual monthly payment.

It is estimated that the back-to-school grant will benefit approximately 203,500 children at an approximate cost of $1.6 billion.

There are some 200,000 students on PATH and 3,500 on Poor Relief, with the back-to-school component of the CARE programme providing approximately $1 billion of the estimated overall grant.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com