Some 3,700 families in the Volcano Red and Orange Zones will receive an average of $3,000 each over the duration of the project, under the five-year US$44 million Volcanic Eruption Emergency Project (VEEP).
“Obviously, it can’t keep them, by itself, afloat. But it’s a significant contribution to the lives and livelihoods of people,” Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves told Thursday’s launch of VEEP, in Kingstown.
He said that initially, $11.5 million was budgeted for the programme, but it may end up being closer to $12 million.
“And this has never been done before in the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in terms of support to families,” the finance minister said.
“It’s magnificent. It’s revolutionary. It’s holding people together. And it’s going to be transformative going forward. Because now there is a policy by which regular social assistance programmes can be implemented in a similar manner.”
He noted that the payments will be made via cash transfer to the recipient’s accounts at Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The recipients have been issued with debit cards, through which they can access their accounts.
The finance minister said that the use of debit cards addresses the security challenge in paying cash to a large number of people.
It also eliminates the embarrassment that some people feel having to line up to receive public hand-outs.
“So now, seamlessly, people get the support — and the support is based on a variety of factors,” he said, mentioning means tests and family size.
He said that the money automatically remitted to the recipient’s account.
“And then they can go at their convenience, and withdraw $50, $100, $500, $600, depending on what it is and use that money to address the needs that they have,” Gonsalves said.
“… this August, in a couple of days, close to 3,700 families are going to be getting $2.2 million worth of income support on their debit cards. And I want to thank everyone involved for participating in that,” the minister said.
VEEP aims to support St. Vincent and the Grenadines to provide short-term income support, improve the capacity of the government to prepare for and respond to emergencies, and build back better critical services in the aftermath of the La Soufriere volcano eruptions.
It targets the communities mainly affected by the La Soufriere volcanic eruptions, especially in the northern part of the island in the Red, Orange and Yellow Volcanic Hazard Zones.
It is financed by a US$42 million soft loan from the World Bank and a US$2 million grant from the European Union.