NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Across The Bahamas employed persons continue to show up for food assistance.
Food Assistance Task Force Chair, Susan Larson, has called on people to withdraw from the program.
In a statement, she said: “The task force was designed by the prime minister to assist the most vulnerable people in our country; people who were impacted by Hurricane Dorian and persons whose employment status was disrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As people return to work, we are calling on them to withdraw from the program.”
The Food Assistance distribution program is driven by the data captured when a person registers on the RAPID database.
Employment data is requested as part of registration.
Larson said: “As the economy has reopened, persons have not necessarily updated their employment status and they continue to present themselves for food assistance.”
“There are several consequences of this,” she explained. “Highest on the list is that help for the country’s most vulnerable people is compromised.
“Another implication is the time it takes for the task force to verify persons who have presented themselves for assistance.
“This makes wait times on food lines unnecessarily long.”
“The task force is very mindful that access to food is a basic human right and that makes helping people in need a sensitive matter.
“We are calling on those people who have been fortunate enough to return to work, to update their employment status and withdraw.”
The Food Task Force was instituted by the prime minister and began food assistance in late May.
Since then, the government has injected $16 million into the program.
The non-governmental organizations that are members of the task force and function as zone leaders for food distribution have contributed significantly to the program.
Of the NGOs, Larson said: “They have gone well beyond their obligations and supplemented their nearly $3 million cash contributions with thousands of hours donated by staff and volunteers.”
On September 17, Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell announced that the food assistance program was being extended to October 31.
Noting the end date of the current program is four weeks away, Larson said: “People need to understand that this phase of the program will be coming to an end.
“Going forward, what we need to do is to focus on those persons who remain unemployed and help them.
“If you’ve returned to work, please be guided by your conscience and withdraw so we can help those who are truly in need.”
She acknowledged the need will not evaporate overnight and said the task force was discussing trends and recommendations with the Office of the Prime Minister.
The Government recently approved additional funding for the next phase of the program to service the most vulnerable persons until December 2020.
The shape and scope of that assistance is being finalized.