Over 300,000 to benefit from Govt’s CARE Programme

More than 333,000 Jamaicans have so far successfully applied to the COVID-19 Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Programme, the Government’s temporary cash transfer initiative designed to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke disclosed yesterday.

“Applications opened on Thursday morning, April 9. By midnight of the first day we had approximately 158,632 CARE Programme applications and by the afternoon of Monday, April 13 the number of CARE Programme applications totalled 333,968,” Dr Clarke told the Jamaica Observer.

The $10-billion CARE Programme, announced by Clarke a few weeks ago, will help individuals and small businesses.

Yesterday, he explained that the Government had to “innovate, in record time, to be in a position to deliver what will be the largest and broadest fiscal intervention of this kind in Jamaica’s history”.

“The systems to deliver this intervention to the intended recipients did not exist three weeks ago and had to be built from scratch. Also, it had to be robust enough to handle substantial and simultaneous volume,” he said and expressed gratitude to the “dedicated team” from the Ministry of Finance, eGov Jamaica, Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) and the Accountant General’s Department who “worked day and night to get the programme done in time”.

“The structure of Jamaica’s economy is largely informal. It doesn’t operate on the basis of written, formal contracts, neither does it have an online option. It depends on people physically meeting for goods and services to be exchanged for payment. There is no working from home when you are a pan chicken vendor or if you operate a cookshop that sells to the office. Social distancing, as necessary as it is, therefore, disproportionately affects the informal economy,” Clarke said.

He explained that upon making any application to the We CARE portal, an applicant’s Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN) is first electronically validated. Additionally, the first name, last name and date of birth entered for a particular TRN must correspond with the information on the TAJ system. On successful submission of an application, each applicant is given a unique reference number, which can be used to track or edit the status of their application.

He said the programme’s Compassionate Grant, which is open to the unemployed, informally employed, students over 18 and the elderly, had the largest share of applications with over 277,888 from all parishes.

Clarke explained that for the Compassionate Grant, the We CARE application will verify that the applicant’s TRN is not associated with any other CARE Programme application as this would invalidate the award of a Compassionate Grant, which offers $10,000 and is applied at the individual level.

Kingston and St Andrew, Minister Clarke said, had the most applications for the Compassionate Grant with a total of 65,187, followed by St Catherine with 50,333, and Clarendon with 24,485.

Noting that the Compassionate Grant targets the individual rather than the household, Clarke said given the structure of urban dwellings, some households “could receive $40,000 or much more, depending on the number of adults who apply”.

He added that the CARE Programme will also channel $1.1 billion through the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH). However, “by focusing on adults with school-aged children, PATH has well-known gaps and it is necessary for our intervention to be broader-based at this time”.

Clarke noted that of the 277,888 Compassionate Grant applicants, more than 35,429 identified as students over the age of 18.

He explained that prior to recommending payment, the We CARE application will verify electronically whether the applicant’s TRN appears on any recent employment payrolls. If it does, the application will be declined and a message sent to the applicant. However, once that verification is successfully completed a payment recommendation will be sent to the Ministry of Finance which authorises the Accountant General to effect payment electronically.

Clarke also revealed that approximately 46,948 people who reported that they were laid off after March 10 applied for the Supporting employees with Transfer of Cash (SET Cash) Programme which requires employers to upload a P45 form verifying that the applicant was employed and has been laid off.

This form must also include the former employee’s salary. Employees who earned in excess of $1.5 million per annum will be ineligible.

Yesterday, Clarke said applications were received from former workers of almost every major hotel operating in Jamaica.

The parishes with the most SET Cash applications are St James with 10,315; followed by St Ann with 7,758; Westmoreland, 5,332; and Trelawny, 3,803.

Once this verification is completed, recommendations for payment will be made. Payments can only be made to bank accounts and the name on the bank account has to be the applicant’s name.

SET Cash grants are paid monthly, from the month of application until June 2020.

The minister also said that several thousand applications for General Grant were received from PPV licensees, among them taxi, JUTA, MAXI, and JCAL operators, bar operators, craft vendors, market vendors, barbers, hairdressers, cosmetologists and other occupational groups targeted by the CARE Programme.

He reiterated that the applicants must be registered with the municipal corporation in their parish, the Transport Authority or Tourism Product Development Company as a condition of triggering a payment recommendation.

“For all applications, the name on the bank account must be the same as the name on the TRN. The Accountant General’s Department will only make payment to bank accounts where the bank account is in the name of the applicant. Payments to remittance companies, in the name of the applicant, can be collected by the applicant on presentation of identification, the application reference number and other information,” Clarke reminded the country.

He pointed out that three independent systems We CARE, which captures and verifies applications; the TAJ, used in verifications; and the Accountant General’s Department, which executes payments to verified applicants are working in collaboration to ensure the programme is transparent.

“This process will be transparent. As such I have requested of the auditor general that she conduct a simultaneous review of the systems involved in the application and disbursement processes. I expect that this review will be fairly advanced even before the first dollar is paid,” Dr Clarke said.

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