Cabinet has approved US$1 million (TT$7 million) to assist citizens stranded abroad.
“Just today Cabinet took a decision with respect to the replenishment of that sum of money... a million US dollars has been allocated,” National Security Minister Stuart Young said yesterday during the Parliament’s Standing Finance Committee on the 2020/21 budget.
The budget was passed last evening and the House has been adjourned to a date to be fixed. The Senate debate begins today at 10 a.m. The Opposition abstained from voting on the budget.
Young said the US$1 million said will be used by foreign missions to assist as the repatriation process continues.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar asked whether this $7 million was approved yesterday or is an addition to funds previously allocated. Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne responded that three months ago there was approval, and a special allocation of these funds was released by the Ministry of Finance.
“Today Cabinet approved an extension of the administration of this relief to overseas nationals till the end of December, until December 31, so there are still funds available which will be utilising, now that Cabinet has done the approval, we will be utilising to render assistance,” he said.
Separate to the $100,000
He noted that these funds are separate to the $100,000 allocated to the Foreign Affairs Ministry to assist persons in emergency situations abroad.
He said these funds when disbursed would be good in emergency situations such as a robbery, or a sudden death of a head of household while travelling with small children.
Persad-Bissessar had asked whether people who are stranded abroad would be accommodated under this vote to come back home.
Browne said the Finance Minister was proactive enough to receive signals of concern from nationals who are deemed to be stranded abroad due to Covid-19 and find themselves in distress because of the policy decisions that had to be made because of Covid.
“There was a special release of funds to provide for assistance to those nationals through our overseas missions,” he said.
Browne said these funds will not be reflected in the allocation to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, as this was a special release from the Finance Ministry.
He said over 250 people have already received financial assistance.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert said when the Committee was going through the estimates of expenditure for the Finance Ministry, there was a line item called humanitarian assistance to nationals residing abroad, which is $7 million.
This is the money that is disbursed on the instruction of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, he said.
He said the money is already abroad in the bank accounts of five overseas missions at major capitals.
He said the policy regarding this will be implemented by Foreign Affairs Ministry.