Coronavirus Covid19 St Maarten

Recipients Informed, No More Food Assistance As Government Continues To Posture: Sarah Wescot-Williams

While the political posturing continues between the government of the Netherlands and the governing coalition on St. Maarten, recipients of the food assistance program are being informed that this program will come to an end at the end of April, so in the next 2 weeks. This fact alone raises several issues, such as:

  1. State Secretary Knops announced in March that the food assistance program was being extended until July 1, 2021. While this is only 2 additional months, it was also announced that the additional time would allow the local governments to devise a structural program for relief to families in need. At the time it was announced that an additional 15 million Euros was designated for the program to run until July 1st.
    What happened to the extension of the food assistance program?
    In the past few days there has been a lot of bickering about the relationship between the Netherlands and St. Maarten, the petition to the UN, the draft COHO law, implementation agendas and liquidity assistance etc. etc., but in the meantime those most in need are being told this food program is ending and no further information has been forthcoming.
    Is the government of St. Maarten really working on a structural program for those persons who relied on the Dutch-funded program for assistance? Is the government reluctant to admit that they need to fall right back on the Netherlands?
    It is reported that approximately 4800 households have benefitted from the program which was coordinated by the Netherlands Red Cross and the SMDF, assisted by several other NGO’s.
    If we are serious about devising a structural program, we must have the information collected by aforementioned agencies from the nearly year long food assistance program.
    What are our structural numbers in terms of unemployment, welfare recipients etc?
    These are matters that should have the undivided attention of government. Structural programs should be devised that are based on data and numbers, with the objective that everyone deserves a dignified living.
    Maybe we have never had to think in this manner before, because of our collective resiliency(that word again), but the times we live in prove that for many, pulling oneself up and out, can no longer simply be assumed.
    The UD calls on the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, Mr. R. Panneflek to provide clarity and assurance as to the continuation of the food assistance program without delay and provide parliament with an overview of the results of the program thus far.

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