Dealing with Pandemic Fallout: Over 17 lakh get govt cash support
The government recently distributed cash support worth Tk 450 crore to around 17.24 lakh day labourers, transport workers, and small traders, as part of its recent announcement of a Tk 3,200 crore relief package for the ultra-poor and destitute. It also increased allocations for OMS in urban areas and for food assistance in rural areas through the district administration offices.
On July 13, the government announced the relief package to provide financial support and food assistance for these segments that were dealt a fresh blow by the latest round of strict lockdown to contain Covid-19 cases.
Finance ministry officials said they have already disbursed Tk 2,500 each to 14.37 lakh day labourers, 2.35 lakh transport workers, around 50,000 small traders, and 1,603 transport workers two days before Eid.
As the country entered another two weeks of strict lockdown from July 23, the latest package will provide some relief to the poor who were hit the hardest by the pandemic, they said.
Earlier in April, the government provided cash assistance to nearly 35 lakh poor families facing income losses and hardship amid the nationwide lockdown. This was the second time these families received this cash support of Tk 2,500 after one transfer last year. The list of beneficiaries was initially around 50 lakh but was whittled down to 35 lakhafter scrutiny of the list of ultra-poor and destitute across the country.
The target beneficiaries included rickshaw-pullers, day labourers, construction workers, farmers, people working at small businesses, and transport workers.
This time, they have selected 17 lakh most vulnerable persons from that list, said an official of the Finance Division.
Meanwhile, the government also started additional open market sale (OMS) centres across the country from yesterday to help low-income people in urban areasbuy essentials at a subsidised price. These will continue till August.
At least 813 OMS centres will be operated across the country and the government has allocated another Tk 150 crore from the relief package for this, said the official.
Allocations were made for 20,000 tonnes of rice and 14,000 tonnes of flour -- rice will be sold at Tk 30 per kilogramme and flour at Tk 18 per kg. They are providing a Tk 17 and Tk 10 subsidy respectively per kg of rice and per kg of flour, he added.
Last year, however, rice was sold at a subsidised price of Tk 10 per kg in OMS.
OMS operations have been scaled up in the capital in light of the strict lockdown, said Food Secretary Mosammat Nazmanara Khanum. An additional allocation has been made for this OMS, she added.
Nazmanara said they have included every municipality in the country under the OMS programme this time and are distributing stocks based on the requirements of the district administration offices. Previously, OMS sales only took place in city corporation areas, she added.
Every municipality will get at least two tonnes of rice and one tonne of flour, she said.
The government has also already disbursed Tk 100 crore to thedeputy commissioners (DCs) to provide food assistance to the poor in their respective districts based on requests to the national helpline 333. The helpline provides information on government services and can be used to report social problems.
Pirojpur DC Abu Ali Md Sazzad Hossain told The Daily Star that his office has received Tk 1.15 crore in funds and already distributed Tk 70 lakh to all the upazila nirbahi officers (UNOs) for their areas.
Any person who is in need will get Tk 500 worth of food assistance -- 7kg rice, 1kg lentil, 1kg potatoes, a half-litre of soybean oil, and a half kgof salt -- if they call 333 after verification by their UNO, the DC said.
Satkhira DC Mohammad Humayun Kabir said his office has received Tk 1.70 crore for distressed people in the district and has already started distributing the food assistance to the poor.
An official of the Finance Division said they set the fund allocation for food assistance in each district based on the number of unions in it.
Another Tk 1,500 crore of the Tk 3,200 crore packagehas been allocated to Palli Sanchay Bank, Karmasangsthan Bank, and Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) for low-interest loans towards job-creation activities in rural areas.
The Finance Division official said the banks are given this money as a grant for lending at a subsidised interest rate of four percent, which will be distributed through different NGOs in rural areas.
To help businesses in the tourism sector pay workers' wages, Bangladesh Bank is preparing a guideline to allocate Tk 1,000 crore for loans to the business owners at a subsidised interest of four percent. This guideline will be prepared and distributed to stakeholders of the sector by August 4, he said.
An official of the Finance Division said they have a Tk 5,000 crore special fund for such allocations and a further Tk 5,000 crore from funds saved from reducing foreign trips and car purchases by half.
"We have given Tk 3,200 crore to the ultra-poor and destitute families and will be able to provide more if necessary as we have Tk 10,000 crore in funds," he said.