Gov’t disburses $4M for lockdown-hit households

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Theng Panhathorn – the government delegate in charge of the directorate-general of planning – is speaking at a press conference marking the commencement of the post-lockdown cash handout programme on June 10. Hean Rangsey

The government kicked off its post-lockdown cash handout programme on June 10, with projected transfers of around $4 million to more than 60,000 households affected by the recent large-scale lockdowns in Phnom Penh, Kandal province’s Takhmao town and Sihanoukville.

Speaking at a press conference marking the commencement of the programme on June 10, Theng Panhathorn – the government delegate in charge of the directorate-general of planning – said the affected households have around 200,000 members in total.

“We started our interview process for those who were affected from May 18-30. As a result, we found 61,667 households in the lockdown areas who were eligible for benefits, totalling about 200,000 people. And the total funds that we plan to provide to them is over $4 million,” he said.

Panhathorn noted that this cash handout is not part of the government’s ongoing “IDPoor” cash transfer programme that provides assistance to roughly 700,000 poor households consisting of 2.8 million people who were already receiving Covid-19 related cash assistance from the government.

Chhour Sopanha, director of the ministry’s social welfare department, told a press conference that the cash handout would focus on three categories of poor households: those with Covid-19 deaths, those with members who tested positive, and the remainder.

Sophana stressed that not everyone in the lockdown areas was eligible for the assistance – only the low-income families.

“The people who will benefit from this cash handout programme are households that have been interviewed and verified as actually being poor,” he said, adding that the term “large-scale lockdown” referred to that of an entire district, not at the commune level.

He clarified that this programme was not for the households holding IDPoor I or IDPoor II cards who are already benefiting from a government cash transfer programme.

Factories workers in the garment and footwear sectors are also inelegible for this assistance because they are already receiving similar assistance through the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training.

Phnom Penh deputy governor Nuon Pharat said there were 62,590 families who have been affected by the lockdown in the capital.

However, he noted that only 53,745 eligible households were actually interviewed and only 48,120 were then selected to get the aid. The rest did not meet the criteria or were in other assistance programmes.

“I hope that this cash assistance will help to reduce the burdens of our people who have faced difficulties during and after the lockdown,” Pharat said.

According to the instructions issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation dated May 19, the amount of assistance given would vary according to the size of each household.

Single people will receive 156,000 riel ($40) in total benefits – $25 for food, $4.5 for clean water for two months and $9.5 for electricity for two months.

Households with two to three members will receive a total of around $60 in benefits – $28 for food, $11 to cover water and $21 towards electricity.

For households with four or more members, the total benefit will be $77 – $31 for food, $15 for water and $30 for electricity.

Single people who have had a family member who died from Covid-19 will receive $110 regardless of their personal wealth.

Households with two or three members who have had a member die from the disease will receive a total of $156.

Households of four or more members with Covid-19 deaths will receive a total of $190.

Prime Minister Hun Sen also made remarks on June 9 directed to those who will be receiving the cash. He said all eligible persons will receive it through electronic payment service provider Wing.

He urged any poor households affected by the large-scale lockdown who have not been registered for this assistance to go without delay to their local authorities no later than June 16 to be registered in order to get their benefits in this next phase.