McKenzie announces increase in councillors’ education grant

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The education grant paid by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development to parish councillors will be increased by some $200,000 this fiscal year.

Speaking in the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, portfolio minister Desmond McKenzie said that the funding, which is being continued through the Municipal Social Assistance Fund, needs to be increased to maintain their effectiveness in assisting the vulnerable in their respective divisions.

“This Fund enhances social protection through administrative support to councillors, social housing assistance, indigent housing assistance and education and funeral grants,” he explained.

He said last year, every division received $300,000 in education grants and for back-to-school and related expenses.

“This year, the education grant for each division will be increased to $500,000. Additionally, the allocation for administrative assistance will be increased from $25,000 to $30, 000,” McKenzie told the House.

“We also started constructing modern, concrete houses for indigent persons living outside of the infirmary system. We started in Clarendon with the aim of building 28 such houses for 2018/19. Eleven of the houses were completed, or are in various stages of completion in St Ann, St Thomas, Trelawny and St Andrew. This includes two that were built in Lime Hall and in Beecher Town, St Ann, at a combined cost of $4 million, while another was built in Irish Town in St Andrew at a cost of $2 million. Just last month, I handed over housing units in Hatfield in Manchester,” McKenzie informed the House.

He said, too, that this year the ministry will be building concrete indigent houses in St James, St Catherine, Portland and Kingston.

“We have not forgotten our outdoor poor, who live in structures that are in various stages of disrepair. I will be introducing, in this financial year, a special programme valued at $20 million, designed to implement repairs to the houses of our registered outdoor poor,” he stated.

He said too that the ministry is continuing to improve the infrastructure of its infirmaries islandwide.

“Last year, I announced a special project involving comprehensive works at a number of infirmaries, to be financed to the tune of $200 million, through the National Housing Trust (NHT). While there were delays, the country is aware that we recently signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the NHT, and works have started,” he said.

— Balford Henry

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