Little has been heard of late about the COVID-19 crisis-related food aid programme. The Red Cross-led effort funded by the Netherlands ended per April 30. They claim having helped about 4,800 households in St. Maarten, reaching more than 15,000 individuals.
The Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations has agreed to provide financing for government to continue the relief programme until the end July, with the possibility to extend it for another three months. Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley told Parliament in mid-May that the St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF), which was already involved with the Red Cross, will play an important role in the new setup.
Several elected representatives at the time expressed concern after learning that the 2021 budget would have to be passed first. After all, some of the more vulnerable persons in the community have been depending on these grocery parcels and particularly supermarket vouchers.
The Council of Ministers was to handle relevant advice the following week, but June has meanwhile arrived, and with it the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. Especially now the assistance will be much needed to stock up on emergency supplies.
In Curaçao, where the same change happened, reregistration with its Ministry of Social Development, Labour and Wellbeing SOAW started on May 24. One week later 4,000 applications had been received, of which almost 1,500 were approved but also more than 1,200 rejected.
The Red Cross there had some 6,000 beneficiaries on its list, which is partly attributed to abuse. The aid is only meant for inhabitants making less than 650 Netherlands Antillean guilders per month or living on social welfare.
In St. Maarten too there was talk of closing such loopholes, but for many legitimate and often poor recipients waiting any longer is simply not an option.