A veteran MP has denied that financial help donated to needy families in the COVID-19 pandemic is being distributed along partisan political lines.
Member of Parliament for St George North and Government backbencher Gline Clarke took to Voice of Barbados’ Down to Brass Tacks to respond to suggestions that politicians were distributing funds to party supporters. The money was donated to MPs by the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust to help needy families in individual constituencies.
The long-time parliamentarian disclosed he distributed the lion’s share of vouchers to residents in his least supportive polling district.
He said: “We distributed them based on the ‘boxes’ (polling districts) in my constituency and people in these areas identified the families most in need. The secretary in his constituency office then recorded their names via their ID card, and we did not check to see whether they were Bs or Ds.”
Clarke suggested the economic fallout resulting from the COVID-19 national shutdown has forced more Barbadians to seek assistance from their parliamentary representatives.
“I have been in this constituency for 25 years and this is the first time we have had so many requests for assistance,” he said.
“Today we have to buy food from a supermarket to help families in need, and we ask constituents to donate food items instead of cash so we can distribute these items.
“Generally speaking, people come in for assistance with utility bills, food, diapers for babies as well as the elderly, sporting goods and transport to the hospital or the polyclinic for people with chronic illnesses, and there are times I have taken food items from my own home to assist constituents.”
Explaining the distribution of the charity’s aid, Clarke told the radio programme: “The Sandy Lane Charitable Trust gives out vouchers to each constituency in an amount that works out to $16,000 per constituency. They are $50 vouchers and are given out specifically to people with children under the age of 18 who have no income of any kind.
“Those who are receiving pensions or NIS payments do not qualify. There are strict guidelines governing its distribution and all the Members of Parliament were made aware of these guidelines.
“My office got them last Tuesday and by the weekend we had given out all of them; some 125 families in St George North benefited from them.
“People with one child got two vouchers, those with two or three children received three; and those with four children or more received four – the maximum amount per family was $200.”
He added: “We get allowances every month which go to our constituency offices to help those in need. We have an idea of who the needy people are in our areas, and we do what we can to assist them without any fanfare.”
The Sandy Lane Charitable Trust’s programme is a six-week project, with funds being disbursed every two weeks.