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December 12, 2020
Government scrambles for COVID-19 funds for Health Ministry 
December 12, 2020

“No money no deh,” but COVID relief will continue 

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Posted: Saturday, December 12, 2020. 1:49 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The ruling People’s United Party has promised that persons on quarantine or self-isolation due to COVID-19 would be provided a food package and stipend to ensure they can provide for themselves and their families during that time. 

But it may take a while to come in, as will the overall Food Assistance Program and the Unemployment Relief Program. 

The reason? To borrow a line from Daddy Tracey: “No money no deh, dahling, no money no deh.” 

Minister of Health and Wellness Michel Chebat explained concerning what we might call the COVID-19 Quarantine Assistance Program, “We are working with the Minister of Human Development to get that as quickly as possible and so that is in the making as early as Monday, we are hoping for today. But we have met some kinks along the way. So, we are ironing those out and we are hoping by Monday to start implementing that.” 

On the Food Assistance Program, Prime Minister John Briceño put it this way: “All funds were spent before November 11. They left $1 million dollars for the food pantry or the grocery bags or whatever it is you want to call it. They left $1 million. The $10.5 million that has just come in towards that, the government had already spent it, they borrowed it from Central Bank. So that has to be paid.” 

The Prime Minister further revealed that in the case of the Unemployment Relief Program, halted before the elections, “The unemployment relief, they spent everything. They even gave three months in advance just before the election to people when it’s supposed to be something that is given either bi-monthly or at least once a month. They gave everything. There are a number of top-up cards that did not get the funding and it’s simply because they went with everything.” 

The previous administration had borrowed from Central Bank via treasury bonds, a total of $75 million, for the Unemployment Relief Program and associated programs such as the Food Assistance Program and funds for small, medium, and micro businesses, especially in tourism. The then Prime Minister Dean Barrow had committed to making the Food Assistance Program non-partisan, and that all of them would be audited by the Supreme Audit Institution. 

Briceño has now committed to continuing relief programs to the end of the financial year, which comes in March, but he added, “now we have to find how we are going to source these monies. We have to talk to our international partners and the IFI’s and do our very best to get the funds to be able to continue to help our Belizeans that are in distress through no fault of theirs.” 

Funding has been provided by the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), among others. 

In related news, an Economic Recovery Assistance Team will be formed by next week once legal processes are cleared. 

 

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