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Government must speed up cost-of-living help, says charity

A leading community group has urged the Government to speed up the distribution of financial help aimed at easing the cost-of-living crisis as some families are having to go without enough food or light.

Sandy DeSilva, the executive director of Family Centre (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Family Centre said it was “urgent” for the Government’s promised $15 million cost of living assistance package to get to struggling people.

Sandy De Silva, the executive director of the organisation, said the delayed one-off $150 back-to-school payment would now be used to buy groceries by some families battling rising prices.

“Yes, it’s urgent to get it done, and it needs to be done methodically. We find families are struggling, especially with the cost of food, rent and energy.

“The increase in inflation has not been met with an increase in income. Some struggling families are having to eat less and have the light on less. We find the cost of food is hitting more of the economic spectrum,” said Dr De Silva.

Questions sent for three days to the Government

When will the payroll applications/rebates be available?

Regarding the $150 back-to-school payments, applications went live for these ten days ago — could the Government say how many have been received so far?

When will the food assistance be announced, as in, which foodstuffs qualify?

When will the help with LED bulbs be forthcoming?

She added: “Everybody is having to tighten up, including in the middle-income bracket.

“It’s always disappointing when families cannot get what is promised to help them.”

Part of the relief package, the $150 payment, intended to help to offset the cost of the new term, failed to materialise before children returned to classrooms this week.

Dr De Silva said: “I’m still hopeful that families can get that money, and maybe use it for groceries.”

The Government’s cost-of-living assistance package announced in July included a 15 per cent increase in the food allowance budget for the Department of Financial Assistance, as well as an estimated $500,000 for LED light bulbs for families to help to cut electricity bills.

David Burt, the Premier, promised a payroll tax rebate of $250 for people earning less than $60,000 a year and a $100 rebate for people earning between $60,000 and $96,000.

Mr Burt told the House of Assembly in July: “It is expected that by September applications will be made available where 75 per cent of Bermuda’s workers will be eligible to apply for their rebate.”

Senator Ben Smith, the One Bermuda Alliance education spokesman, said the Government had made a mess of the back-to-school one-off payment.

He said: “It seems the Government announced this initiative without a way to control this process.

“It would have been better to provide a voucher for specific school supplies or uniforms so that parents could have made the purchases before school started.

“Now they are late. Some people have said they haven’t even received a response to their application.

“The minister has apologised that the $150 is late but that hasn’t helped the parents who needed the money. Why offer a back-to-school initiative that was of no help towards getting students back to school?

“Another added stress that parents did not need was the intricacy of the actual application process. It has been very frustrating for some, to say the least.”

There has been no response from the Government to questions put by The Royal Gazette regarding the rollout of the payroll rebates, back-to-school payment and other items announced in July’s assistance package.

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Published September 16, 2022 at 7:46 am (Updated September 16, 2022 at 7:46 am)

Government must speed up cost-of-living help, says charity

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