The government has provided cash support to nearly 700,000 poor and vulnerable households affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with a total cost to the state budget of $562.22 million from June 25, 2020, to January 24, 2022, as round eight of the cash support begins.
The cash transfer programme is being administered by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, which on January 24 unveiled the results of the seventh round’s third disbursal of cash and then started the eighth round’s first payments.
Each “round” of payments extends the programme by an additional three months on average during which monthly cash transfers are made to registered poor and vulnerable households with the amount varying according to certain criteria including place of residence as the cost of living in the capital is higher.
The programme was launched on June 24, 2020, by Prime Minister Hun Sen to support poor and vulnerable households during the pandemic.
The ministry said in the announcement that the intervention programme for the poor and vulnerable during the fight against Covid-19 had issued cash payments to households 19 times to date or once per each month that has passed since the programme launched 19 months ago.
The third monthly payments of the seventh round of the programme ended on January 24 with 122,239 million riel (around $30 million) having been transferred to 686,205 households.
Ministry spokesman Touch Channy said on January 25 that the eighth round’s first payments would begin January 25 and run for 30 days until February 24.
“The eighth round will last another three months in total for January, February and March. Once the eighth round is over, the government will consider whether to extend the programme further with additional rounds of cash support or if it should be discontinued,” he said.
“Around 700,000 poor and vulnerable households have received assistance from the government, which has spent more than $30 million a month on subsidies since it was implemented,” Channy said, adding that the amount of cash support differs for each household depending on their actual living conditions.
Families who have already been verified and have qualified for all seven rounds and 19 payments can pick-up their eight round cash at any agents of electronic payment service provider Wing.
Poor and vulnerable households who have a valid equity card and have not been verified for all seven rounds or 19 payments and poor families who have just received a new equity card can go to their commune hall to get verification and receive their cash support there.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of Licadho, said the government’s financial support to poor and vulnerable households was important because they needed government support as many have lost their family’s incomes and occupations during the Covid-19 related economic downturn.
“We have seen on social media that there were some protests and some irregularities in the assessment and issuance of certificates to poor families and some families who should get cards couldn’t get them,” he said.
He urged relevant authorities to strengthen transparency and service quality and provide adequate information to citizens about the evaluation criteria for the assistance in order to better issue the cards to them.
The social affairs ministry has stated that any citizen who encounters irregularities or is unable to withdraw cash at Wing as instructed can contact the programme managers for their commune or in the provincial department of social affairs and planning.