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NIDS to remove ID barriers to welfare access, says Holness

One year after the Government reported that roughly $300 million in COVID-19 welfare relief was uncollected, some Jamaicans have still not been able to collect their disbursement as they do not have the requisite identification documents.

The COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) programme was launched two years ago, receiving more than 7,000 online applications within the first few hours. It sought to provide temporary cash transfers to persons and businesses to cushion the economic fallout during the crisis.

Last April, while reporting that some $300 million was yet to be picked up by applicants, the Government said then that some $17 billion had been successfully disbursed to more than 500,000 Jamaicans.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that a National Identification System (NIDS) would have greatly helped to remove the barrier to access being faced by applicants.

“Can you imagine if we were five years in advance of this system? That we did this 10 years ago or three years ago and everybody now has their NIDS ID, and we are able to truly identify children who need it for PATH, the households that really need it?” he said referencing the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education as he addressed a ceremony before the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Government and deposit-taking institutions for the pilot aspect of the identity verification and authentication services under NIDS.

$300 million uncollected

“When the pandemic hit, we transferred money to people [and] over $300 million was uncollected, just because people were not able to verify their identification. They had wrong TRN (taxpayer registration number), wrong bank account number – $300 million. So even today there are people still trying to resolve their identity in order to collect the funds,” Holness said.

“Even with the SET (Supporting Employees with the Transfer of Cash, SET Cash) programme, which was for employed persons, who would had some establishment of identity, several thousands of them weren’t able to collect because of wrong TRN number, wrong this number, wrong that number. So what we’re trying to do is to sort all of that out by establishing the NIDS.”

Holness said that the NIDS will allow Jamaica to have a proper beneficiary identification system and a system of digital transfer of resources, which has already started with the central bank’s digital currency.

“The Government will now be able to make all its transfers through that system,” he said.

“It always hurts my heart when I go into my constituency and see my elderly constituents lining up at post office or other centres to collect their PATH cheques,” he said, adding that NIDS intends to make the system of collecting PATH funds easier as well.

Holness pleaded with persons opposed to NIDS to have a change of thought and embrace digital change and developments.

“Those people, whose vested interest is to never to see this happen, please give it a chance. Stop spreading the false rumours and confusing our Jamaican people and keeping us behind. It’s the most frustrating thing to go on social media and see some of the nonsense that is being circulated and people following it,” he said.