Premier Alden McLaughlin said government would have to think very carefully about using public funds to support charities helping with food relief.
He acknowledged there were delays in people accessing support from the Needs Assessment Unit but said it was still providing support to 2,700 families.
The premier said most delays were associated with people not filling out forms correctly.
Asked at a press conference Wednesday if his government would consider supporting charities that provide more immediate emergency food support, he suggested the lack of a vetting process for people getting aid could be a problem.
“The reason why the NAU process takes longer is because there is vetting process,” he said.
“Government simply giving money to entities that don’t have any filter process – you just turn up and you get what is available – is something we would have to consider very carefully… this is still government funds that we are using.”
Finance Minister Roy McTaggart, speaking at the same conference, said many MLAs were contributing personally to charities.
“It does bother me to see my people in that position. I have never seen it here in Cayman in my life,” he said. “This is a very significant impact on us all, you are seeing hundreds of Caymanians, hundreds of people, having to seek food from charities in order to put a meal on a plate of their families. It is very distressing.”
NAU delays linked to missing information
Responding to concerns that the NAU was not responding to applicants or not processing applications for support quickly enough at a time when people are, in some cases, out of money to buy food, McLaughlin said delays were largely connected to missing information.
“What we have found on analysis that the vast majority of applications which are made are incomplete and lack the necessary information. It is creating major logistical and management problems for NAU when the requested information is not received.”
Government pumped an extra $2.5 million into the unit to provide additional support and staff have also been moved from other agencies to assist with the rising need. Around 69% of those additional funds have already been spent, the premier said.
He said food vouchers and assistance with rent, utilities and, in some cases, burial costs were being provided to thousands of Caymanians.
“It is not as though nobody is getting served,” he added.
“We are receiving 60 applications a day. We have beefed up the staff to help deal with this… we are doing everything we can to try to cope with the massive increase in applications and need.”
Though government has relaxed some of the requirement to get help, he said there was still a process to go through.
That includes filling out an application form and providing supporting documents, including proof of Caymanian status and utilities bills or rental agreements in some cases.
“We really have to find a way to get people to complete the forms properly,” he said.
The premier added that more funds could be directed to the NAU if needed but said he hoped the need would lessen now that many Caymanians were getting back to work.
Work permit holders who have lost jobs and can’t return home are not eligible for support from the NAU. They can apply for a one-time $150 food voucher via the Ministry of Community Affairs. Government has said it will consider requests for other types of assistance on a case-by-case basis. Sunday, 31 May, is the deadline for any expatriate workers that need help to submit application forms.
Red Cross to co-ordinate non-profit COVID relief
Danielle Coleman, of Hazard Management Cayman Islands, said the Red Cross has now been established as a co-ordinating agency for the non-profit sector.
She said there was fantastic work being done across the board but it was ‘critical to avoid duplication’.
All non-profits are being urged to fill out a form detailing the work they are doing through a form on the Red Cross website.
“We are working towards laying down foundation for a coordinated, national referral system that will minimise duplication of services, eliminate double dipping, facilitate the referral process between agencies, and improve beneﬁciary access to a holistic range of services.
“This is a real opportunity for us to reshape the way which we assist those in need, not only in times of disasters but also in times of peace,” Carolina Ferreira, deputy director of the Red Cross said in a press release Friday.