With the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in higher unemployment, and emergency lockdown measures intended to prevent spread of the virus by keeping people indoors, some inner-city constituency offices have taken additional steps to provide help to those who may be particularly vulnerable during this time.
Centreville MP Reece Chipman told The Nassau Guardian yesterday there are several initiatives his constituency office is employing to assist residents amidst the crisis.
“Of course we advertise the food assistance and the rent assistance as well, which we would have asked persons to send an email to email@example.com in order to get assistance,” Chipman said.
“So far we’ve had about 25 persons apply for food assistance, which they will be collecting at 9 o’clock tomorrow (Wednesday) at our office.
“Then with rent assistance…[it’s] more so us speaking with landlords in terms of trying to assist with a rent reduction over this challenging period.
“And in some cases where we can provide financial assistance in terms of rent.”
Another initiative is what Chipman referred to as an “in-community initiative”, where residents in need receive food vouchers to be redeemed at neighborhood convenience stores.
He said the goal of this is to help stimulate small businesses in the area while at the same time providing support for those in need.
“…[W]e were working with the larger food stores like Super Value for over the past two years in terms of food assistance, but during this time we wanted to…add to our food assistance program by also including our community convenience stores, and I think that’s going to be a plus for the community,” Chipman said.
“So starting next week, because we just got the list in and trying to get the vouchers done up, they will now get their voucher for their own little convenience store right there next door or down the road.”
The constituency offices of Englerston and St. Barnabas are offering their residents similar relief, Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin and St. Barnabas MP Shanendon Cartwright told this paper yesterday.
“We have a St. Barnabas ‘We Care’ team that we would have had since the general election that’s been in place to meet all the needs of the constituency,” Cartwright said.
“Particularly now as we are obviously in this national emergency, we have our team members…checking on the elderly and the most vulnerable in the constituency.
“We’ve…been assisting and continuing to assist persons with groceries who need it, and just to continue to provide the kind of support that a lot of persons need during this national emergency while at the same time adhering to the social distancing guidelines, which is a challenge.
“But we are adhering to them while getting assistance to our constituents.”
Hanna-Martin, meanwhile, said her office has been working closely with churches in the Englerston community to provide support to residents.
“We have done recently, in the last couple of days and some today, [provided] food vouchers for individuals,” Hanna-Martin said.
“And that was done with the partnering with a generous donor.”
She noted that neighborhood churches and community programs have been helpful in assisting “people who we were able to quickly identify as being extremely vulnerable”.
Aside from identifying those most vulnerable in the community, Chipman said his office is also carrying out a survey of elderly residents to be better aware of how they could be supported.
“[W]e do have over 800 senior citizens, people over the age of 65 – I think it was over 60 that we did – and what we’re doing with them is we’re doing a survey with them just asking about any pre-existing conditions, et cetera, so that we may even be able to provide some support services for them as well,” Chipman said.
Golden Isles MP Vaughan Miller, meantime, said his office is still finalizing plans for assistance.
“We’re strategizing,” Miller said.
“We have some plans that we intend to execute. We have not finalized them.”
For the West End constituency, its MP Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe said her office is relying on the Social Services Department for most of its assistance.
“Our office has received calls from persons needing help and fortunately we have been able to assist as best as we can, while also pointing them to Social Services who has implemented certain measures to help those less fortunate through it all,” Parker-Edgecombe said.
“At this time, the majority of the assistance is coming from Social Services and I continue to communicate with Urban Renewal in the WGBB (West Grand Bahama and Bimini) constituency to ensure that the needs of the elderly in particular are addressed.”
Similarly, Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine said his office has been trying to keep in touch with residents while awaiting to see if further help will come from the government.
“Right now we’re all waiting to see exactly what it is that the government will do, beyond what they said, of course, with NIB (the National Insurance Board), et cetera,” McAlpine said.
“With regards to the constituency itself, we have been reaching out to our people by way of social media, and encouraging them to follow the advice of the professional healthcare professionals of the country, and basically trying to tell everybody to stay indoors and to keep safe.”
He added, “There are those who are shut-in throughout the whole entire community, and people are just vulnerable and in need at this time.”
Constituency offices are closed as per the government’s 24-hour curfew and emergency lockdown measures, which have ordered most businesses closed, with few exceptions.
However, the respective MPs indicated they are keeping lines of communication open either by email, personal numbers, forwarded office numbers or hotlines so that residents can still be able to reach them.