Approximately 4,500 low-income households in the Federated States of Micronesia stand to receive $1,000 each in temporary cash relief under the government’s $14 million Covid-19 assistance package consisting of different social programs, the Office of the President announced this week.
The FSM government said the one-time cash relief, totaling $6 million, will be distributed in January 2021 to households outside of the formal labor sector, such as farmers and fishermen, as well as laborers who do not qualify for the U.S.-funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
The cash relief is among the new social protection programs designed to mitigate the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that prompted FSM to close its borders.
“These social protection programs will help mitigate the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on our most vulnerable citizens, by decreasing familial poverty, increasing food security, and helping our stranded citizens abroad," FSM President David Panuelo said.
The programs are mainly funded by Asian Development Bank through a grant agreement signed by FSM Finance Secretary Eugene Amor on Nov. 25.
The food security program for community groups and low-income households is another component of the program that seeks to provide subsistence livelihood training, and an equitable distribution of seeds, planting, and fishing materials, to vulnerable citizens at no cost.
Approximately $2 million is earmarked for the program, which the government plans to roll out by January 2021.
The package also includes expanded assistance to more than 423 stranded FSM citizens, who have previously received $1,000 per person, or $1,500 per family application.
The first batch of FSM citizens was originally scheduled to arrive in FSM first week of December but the repatriation plan has been held off anew.
“It’s vital that stranded citizens receive this second round of assistance before Christmas,” Panuelo said in a statement. “Too many of our stranded citizens are having trouble paying for housing, food, and essential medications. I have instructed our Department of Finance & Administration to prioritize this effort.”
Stranded citizens who have already received the first payment will receive the second payment through the payment method they selected in the first round of applications.
Stranded citizens who have not already applied for assistance are encouraged to do so. Information on how to apply is available here: https://dofa.gov.fm/assistance-to-stranded-citizen/
Another component of the program is a community-based Covid-19 campaign intended to strengthen awareness of Covid - 19, inclusive of education on handwashing and social distancing, distribution of soaps, masks, and informational materials, and piloting a gender-based violence hotline in Pohnpei. Approximately $2 million is allotted for this program.
The financial assistance program to vulnerable groups such as the elderly, persons with disabilities, and survivors of gender-based violence is intended to provide temporary waivers of medical expenses not included under funding from the Compact of Free Association electricity subsidies to an estimated 2,000 low-income households with dependents who have disabilities, distribution of solar lamps to an estimated 5,000 households on remote outer islands, and clinical management of rape and intimate partner violence kits and consultation options for survivors of gender-based violence.
Approximately $1 million is scheduled for this purpose.
The FSM government said the bulk of the expanded social protection programs are funded in part by ADB through its Covid-19 Pandemic Response Option under the ADB’s Countercyclical Support Facility.