Long Lines outside the Social Service Centre on Ciparo Street in San Fernando on Monday.

There at least 4,500 citizens still awaiting COVID-19 relief grants from the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, with the monies owed to them totalling some $23 million.

This was revealed during the second Public Administration and Appropriation Committee meeting yesterday during its examination of the ministry’s response to the pandemic.

Soon after the onset of the pandemic, the Government made available several social assistance grants to assist citizens who were severely affected by the economic fallout. The grants were to be paid for a three-month period and citizens had up to December 4, 2020, to apply for them.

“The outstanding numbers to be paid up to the period in question (November 30) is 4,721 persons. That is the outstanding numbers to be paid income and food support (grants),” deputy permanent secretary in the ministry Vijay Gangapersad said during the session.

Permanent Secretary Sheila Seecharan indicated that these applications had already been processed and the ministry was awaiting the release of funding.

As of November 30, 2020, the ministry has paid $351,928,855 in COVID-19 relief grants, the committee was told. These were spread across the categories of food support, hampers, food vouchers, income support and rental assistance.

Apart from the COVID-19 relief, Gangapersad said the ministry’s monthly expenditure on core services was typically around $475 million.

“The senior citizens’ pension, we spend $350 million dollars on a monthly basis. The disability assistance grant- $47.9 million dollars on a monthly basis. The disability assistance grant for children $4 million on a monthly basis. The public assistance grant, we spend $7.8 million dollars on a monthly basis. And food suppor,t $16.7 million on a monthly basis,” he said.

During the discussion, committee member and opposition MP Dr Lackram Bodoe requested that the ministry break down the list of those who would have benefitted from the relief grants by constituencies and forward it to Members of Parliament.