June 16, 2020
Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, commended the Government of The Bahamas for its response in the aftermath of the monster storm, Hurricane Dorian in 2019, and to the COVID-19 Pandemic this year.
Minister Campbell said the 2020/2021 National Budget proves that hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.
Minister Campbell announced that the Department of Social Services has been identified to receive $60,362,205.00 (sixty million, three hundred and sixty two thousand, two hundred and five dollars) for the 2020/2021 Budget, an increase of approximately 65 per cent over the allocation for 2019/2020. The proposed allocation is expected to continue to assist persons affected by Hurricane Dorian, COVID-19 and the regular clients of the Department throughout the country. It will also fund the digitization of the Department by way of the ProMis System and the delivery of services through the electronic digital wallets.
“I once heard an old woman say: ‘Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness,’” Minister Campbell told Parliamentarians Wednesday (June 10). “Today, decisions are being made that will define how we interact with social circumstances to bring hope; the resources allocated right now (will) determine the way we live and get along with each other in our homes, on our jobs, in our communities, to erase some of the fear that has crept into the mindsets of our citizens as a result of the negative economic fall-out from Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19.
“There are hundreds of thousands sitting in their homes, outside under trees, playing in the backyard, driving around in their cars – which are all good reminders of what is at stake and of who is counting on us to get both the big and the small things right. The 2020/2021 Budget’s purpose is to strengthen human resources and to maximize human potential to successfully manage the many stresses and strains that seem to characterize this era of rapid political, social, economic and cultural change,” Minister Campbell added.
Delivering his Contribution to the 2020/2021 National Budget Debate in the House of Assembly, Minister Campbell said the negative impacts and/or fall-out from the monster storm Dorian, and COVID-19, resulted in an economic situation that necessitated the government having to step forward to ensure that the basic necessities of mankind were met to the extent that they are able to, or that to which budgetary resources allow. Those three basic necessities are: food, shelter and clothing.
“As Minister for Social Services and Urban Development with responsibility for human and humane services, I am proud that this government has allotted some $86Million in direct support, with nearly $60Million allotted in the current fiscal year for social assistance directly related to COVID-19,” Minister Campbell said. “This expands the social safety net by some $140Million in the wake of COVID-19.”
Minister Campbell said understanding that food is prioritized among the three basic necessities of man, and to address the food needs of those citizens in need of Food Assistance – assistance that is also provided by the Department of Social Services, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development and, the Government has partnered with a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to address the food security needs of The Bahamas due to the economic fall-out from COVID-19.
(Urban Renewal also continues to provide Food Assistance to families and the more vulnerable persons in communities such as the elderly/older, more experienced persons, and the community of persons with disabilities.)
The end result was the formation of the National Food Distribution Task Force. Chaired by Mrs. Susan Larson and comprising representatives from various NGOs that provide food assistance to the vulnerable, a key priority of the Task Force will be to ensure equity in the food distribution process. The Department of Social Services is a member of the National Food Distribution Task Force.
“Realizing that its not by accident when you hear of the three basic necessities of food, clothes and shelter, that you hear food first, the Government has embarked on a joint venture programme with the public sector, with non-governmental organizations, to ensure that we are able to feed all of our citizens,” Minister Campbell said. < /br>
“They are not re-inventing the wheel; they went out and co-opted persons who were already in the business of feeding people. They have partnered with The Bahamas Red Cross, The Bahamas Feeding Network, Hands for Hunger, Lend A Hand Bahamas, One Eleuthera Foundation, IDEA, Abaco – persons/organizations who were already in the business and they formed nine zones, five in New Providence and one each in Grand Bahama, Abaco, Eleuthera and the remaining Family Islands.”
Minister Campbell said the Government of The Bahamas has agreed to provide 85 per cent of the funding for the initiative while the private sector will provide the remaining 15 per cent – making it a government-led, government-financed, government-sponsored initiative. The Social Services Minister thanked the various partners for their participation in the national effort.
“Make no mistake, while this Programme is being overseen by this Task Force made up of independent persons, this is a Government-sponsored programme. It is a Government-led initiative. It is a Government-financed Food Distribution Task Force and so for those who may be tempted to guess otherwise, let me make the record clear now: this is the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas seeking to feed the people of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
“To back this up, I want the record to recall that 85 per cent of the funding of the Food Distribution Task Force, is committed by the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. To drive the point home further, the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, through the Department of Social Services, is distributing the funds as directed by the National Feeding Task Force to ensure that their projections – and they project that they will feed 80,000 persons for a twelve-week period.”
Minister Campbell said he has heard some of the criticism surrounding the government’s response.
“I would have heard some criticism, and some of it may have merit, some of it may have been intended to be constructive and to get us to see some areas that may need adjustment and I am grateful for all of those suggestions and even the criticisms. I want to warn though that there was no playbook left behind for this particular circumstance and situation. I want the critics, even if they do not do it publicly, but in their quiet places, to acknowledge that they too would have been challenged; that they too, while traveling these unchartered waters, would have made some mistakes; that they too would have had to make some adjustments.”
By Matt Maura