PHILIPSBURG–Government paid out a total of NAf. 4.75 million in financial aid to a total of 950 persons in 2018, figures requested by this newspaper and provided by Health, Labour and Social Affairs VSA Minister Emil Lee show.
Of the 950 financial aid recipients for 2018, 375 were first time requests, 561 were renewals and 14 received one-time aid. A total of 143 requests for financial aid were denied for this year.
A total of 785 persons received financial aid in 2017 and government gave out NAf. 3.82 million in financial aid for that year. A total of 405 were first time applicants.
A total of 637 persons received financial aid in 2016 and government spent NAf. 3.26 million. A total of 223 were first time requests.
The numbers of financial aid requests that were denied for the years 2017 and 2016 were not available.
“There is half a million increase in pay-out in 2017 compared to 2016, and a larger increase in 2018 of nearly another million (to NAf. 4.75 million). This was to be expected in view of the sudden unemployment or loss of business income caused by [Hurricane – Ed.] Irma,” Lee said in giving an assessment of the figures.
Financial aid depends on a family’s situation. It can range from a maximum NAf. 734 per month for a single person to NAf. 1,134 for a family with three or more children. The amount can be less if the family still has some other income or other assets (bank account balances and their own home).
“2017 saw a large number of first-time requests after Irma (405). These were often granted for only six months under emergency conditions with slightly relaxed criteria for approval. Many of these were extended in 2018, explaining the large number of renewals in that year (561),” Lee explained.
Post Hurricane-Irma, government’s financial aid assistance programme (basic needs voucher programme) benefitted approximately 2,000 persons and a total of NAf. 1.5 million was spent.
“The need for financial aid is reduced by the Emergency Income and Training Project that has absorbed around 900 persons who are unemployed or underemployed. Persons receive a monthly stipend and medical insurance is covered. Given limited resources, the Ministry of VSA is fighting to increase support to the most vulnerable in our community,” Lee said.
The “reintegration shelter” has also housed a large number of people in need in the period since Irma. Many have since reintegrated into regular housing and others have entered the facility. At the highest point, 54 people were accommodated, and currently more than 40 persons are still receiving assistance.