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Finance Bill debate delays disability grant increase
Thousands of disabled people were left disappointed on Friday after Government’s promise of a $200 increase in their disability grants failed to materialise. Confirming the situation, Social Development Minister Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh said the grant was a budgetary measure and could only be effected with the passage of the Finance Bill, which is currently being debated in Parliament.
“We will implement it in accordance with the Finance Act and all arrears of payment will be made,” Ramadharsingh said. He added that the effective date of this measure was this month. However, executive officer of the Blind Welfare Association, Lakhan Seepersad, demanded to know why there was a delay in the passage of the bill.
“We are in a financial year and the Finance Bill isn’t passed yet? In the past the government used to make these grants effective since January 1 and we want to know how come now it hasn’t been implemented yet and why is there a delay in the passage of a Finance Bill? It is frustrating because a lot of people would love to have the extra funds,” Seepersad said. He called on Government to start dealing seriously with the issues of the disabled.
“They have been making promises to the disabled which are not coming through. They claim there is a $5,000 grant to assist people in accessing education and there is none. We have four members of the south branch who are going through the process of accessing it and there is no such grant,” Seepersad said.
Another executive member, Kenneth Surratt, said more than 100,000 disabled people were expecting the increase on February 1. “We were really happy when it was announced in the budget, but we are disappointed that it has not yet been implemented,” Surratt said.
He explained that the money was allocated in the budget but it seemed the Government was now trying to divert the funds elsewhere. He said it was time for the Government to put issues concerning disabled people on the front burner. Surratt explained that the cost of medication was high for many disabled people, especially for glaucoma patients.
“A white cane costs $200 and many blind people have to hire people to get help, because we cannot bring guide dogs into the country,” Surratt said.
What is the disability grant?
A disability assistance grant is a monthly grant of $800 which is provided to people with a physical or mental disability, who have been certified as permanently disabled by a medical officer of the Ministry of Health or a regional health authority. In the last budget, Finance Minister Larry Howai announced that all recipients would get an increase of $200.
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