Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 14th 2016 Contents A10
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As Government moves to rein in undocumented
food cards currently in circulation, affected members
of the public have complained that they were being
"embarrassed" when they visited the grocery and
were forced to walk away empty-handed as their
cards were being declined due to a lack of funds.
Speaking minutes after visiting the Food Card
Division, Tunapuna, a man from Lopinot said, "I not
in any bobol, but it have other people who using this
and don t need it."
The 52-year-old man claimed he had not received
any money during the month of April and that he
had come to the office in order to ensure that he
received the allocation for the
month of May.
Confirming that he had
come to "sort out this non-
sense," the man, who asked
that his name not be pub-
lished, added, "There are gen-
uine people who need the help
but it really have people who
doing they business under-
handed and making it bad for
all of us."
The man said he had now
registered for the new bio-
metric card which features the
name of the applicant as well as their picture and
fingerprints. An unemployed middle-aged woman
and mother of three said she was accustomed to
using the card but had been forced to return her gro-
ceries after the card was declined last week.
Earlier this week, Social Development and Family
Services Minister, Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn,
confirmed that approximately 11,800 food cards had
been deactivated up to May 1.
She said it was done in an attempt to update the
ministry s records and ensure that those who really
needed it were able to access the government grant
under the Targeted Conditional Cash Transfer Pro-
The minister said the hold which had been placed
on the cards would remain in effect for the next three
Prior to the move, advertisements were issued in
the electronic and print media inviting the public to
visit the various offices to register for the biometric
card but these were largely ignored.
Although Crichlow-Cockburn said the public s
initial response was slow in coming for various reasons,
officials at the Tunapuna office said they were now
battling the overwhelming public response as hundreds
Food card holders angry over halt
of people were coming in daily to regularise
their status after they were unable to use
Opting not to provide their names or
positions, well-placed officials said, "It was
ridiculous as to the number of cards that
were in operation, that were undocumented
and still not known."
Although the programme came into effect
in 2006, officials said many of the account-
ing systems were never enforced. One official
said, "Many persons received cards through
their churches, temples and MP s that we
do not know about."
Revealing that under the last regime, all
41 MP s were provided with 40 temporary
food cards each to be distributed at their
discretion, officials stressed that it was "a
one-time use." However, it was not certain
if this guideline was followed.
Unaware if this arrangement was still in
place, the officials denied it was a political
move to cut people from the programme.
The officials claimed that the Tunapuna
office was serving a large catchment area
which included parts of St Ann s East, Arou-
ca, Caroni East, St Joseph, St Augustine,
Tunapuna and Lopinot/Bon Air.
Asked to provide a profile of their appli-
cants database, one official said it consisted
mainly of single mothers.
A household comprising between one
and three persons would qualify for $410;
while a family with three to five persons
would receive $550; and a group of six or
more persons would receive $700.
Estimating that each division racked up
a monthly expense of approximately $2 mil-
lion, the officials said with 13 divisions
throughout both islands, it was a huge gov-
ernment bill that had to be met even during
this time of recession.
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