SAFETY NET: Social sector to receive nearly $70 million boost

SAFETY NET: Social sector to receive nearly $70 million boost

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — More than $68 million will be injected into social services in the upcoming fiscal year as the government seeks to continue to support vulnerable sectors, including unemployed Bahamians and others who have been hit hard by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Social Services will receive $81.4 million in the upcoming budget, compared to the $60.3 million in the current fiscal period.

The increase can be attributed to a more than $20 million increase in “social assistance”.

The line item will see an increase from $5 million in 2020/2021 to $25 million in 2021/2022, according to the budget.

The government forecasts to spend half the amount in the following two fiscal periods, coming in at $12.5 million in 2022/2023 and $12.5 million in 2023/2024.

The government invested more than $32 million in the 2020/2021 budget in social assistance.

The bulk of the funds were used to fund the national food assistance programme.

The program was jointly supported by the government and NGOs.

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, during his budget communication last week, said: “Nothing hurts my heart more than when I visit close-knit neighborhoods in New Providence, Grand Bahama or the Family Islands and see first-hand the physical, social and economic devastation experienced by our communities.

“It pains me to see proud young men and women stripped of the dignity that honest hard work provides for them and their families.

“It is for this reason that job creation is a primary pillar of Accelerate Bahamas.

“The past 18 months have demonstrated to the Bahamian public and to the world at large, the importance of having a robust healthcare system.

“This must be supported by the appropriate social support mechanisms if we want to truly make a difference in the lives of our people, particularly the most vulnerable.”

According to the prime minister, the government has allocated $17 million to the Department of Social Services for the food voucher programme.

The budget also reflects a $25.2 million allocation for food assistance; $6.2 million for subsistence/support of person’s contract; and $3.6 million for circumstance and relief emergency desk assistances.

The allocations to various children’s homes and safe houses, such as the Bahamas Children Emergency Hostel, Links Safe House and the Salvation Army Emergency Shelter, among more than a dozen others, will all be maintained in the upcoming fiscal period.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.