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$2.4m paid out in rent to support Bahamians

By LEANDRA ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

lrolle@tribunemedia.net

THE government has paid out $2.4m in rental assistance to hurting Bahamians amid the COVID-19 pandemic over the last ten months, acting Social Services Director Kim Sawyer revealed yesterday.

“For the period July 2020 to April 2021, 2,118 persons/households have been approved for rental assistance and that’s New Providence and Grand Bahama,” she said. “Total spending is $2.4m.”

The revelation came after officials announced the launch of the Ministry of Social Services’ processing management information system, ProMIS, which aims to modernise services at the agency.

The system, which is set to go live in New Providence on June 1 and the remaining islands shortly thereafter, will allow Bahamians seeking social assistance to make applications for various programmes electronically.

This comes as the social agency continues to see increased demand for public assistance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some 7,000 people said to be receiving social assistance from the department by way of their prepaid Bank of The Bahamas card.

“Currently, approximately 7,000 persons are receiving their assistance through that means and that assistance includes groceries from local vendors throughout the Bahamas,” Social Services Minister Frankie Campbell said yesterday, while noting the ProMIS system will facilitate three methods of payments to approved applicants.

With the new upgraded online platform, social workers also will be able to better track recipients and reduce application turnaround times among other things.

“For years, those who wanted to apply for social assistance would have to attend Social Services offices and sometimes wait on long lines and sometimes wait on the outside, sometimes exposed to the elements,” State Minister for Finance Kwasi Thompson said at yesterday’s Zoom press conference.

“(But) today, (the Ministry of) Social Services announces the launch of their online application for social services benefits that will allow for those who wish to apply to do so 24/7 from the comfort of their homes.”

Mr Campbell also said the new system will usher in a new era for the agency and added it also brings it one step closer towards full digitisation of its services.

“I am pleased to announce that effective first of June 2021, ProMIS will be launched in New Providence and about two months thereafter will be fully launched throughout Grand Bahama and the remainder of the Family Islands,” he said.

“Our social protection, management and information system, ProMIS. Our ProMIS is an e-government system that electronically facilitates all steps related to the management of social assistance, including the application, identification and eligibility, the disbursement of funds and auditing.

“ProMIS integrates data from public and private sector institutions and provides 13 web-based services in one easily accessible online portal. Through the development of ProMIS, the previously paper-based social assistance processes were all able to be standardised, integrated and converted into an electronic system.”

Mr Campbell said his ministry has established a standard process as it relates to providing social assistance “that builds on the existing operations” of its programmes.

He said: “When applying for some type of assistance, the applicant must meet some criteria. Currently the Bahamas do not have a means of measuring income. Therefore, ProMIS utilises a proxy means testing, PMT… It was developed to generate a score for applicants based on fairly easy to observe characteristics of the household such as the location and the quality of the dwelling, the ownership of the durable goods, demographic structure of the household and the education of the adults.”

A part of this process also includes visitations from social workers or urban renewal employees that fall in line with current COVID protocols for verification purposes.

Once the vetting process has been completed, officials said first time applicants can hear back from the department “anywhere from about two weeks to four weeks.”

However, they said, the matter is also dependent on what type of assistance for which they applied.

As for the total cost of the system, Permanent Secretary for Social Services and Urban Development Phedra Rahming said: “I think it was $250,00 to modify an existing management information system. It also has a price tag of $110,000 for maintenance that’s tagged to that as well.”

Comments

tribanon 3 years ago

And of course the 'cherry picked' among the needy who are receiving rent assistance or any other form of handout are all expected to support Minnis and the FNM party in the soon to be called national general election. That's just a given.

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DDK 3 years ago

May the Good Lord help us all!!

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JokeyJack 3 years ago

Oooooh $2.4M. Thats supposed to be a lot? Every other week you read in here of some new IDB loan of $30M and higher to renovate some airport or build some new govt building. Remember the one for the new unemployment office on Gladstone Road? Tens of millions all the time. But yinna need rent? Dog eat ya lunch.

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