By Kamal Haynes, BVI News Staff
With many businesses and families still being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, requests for financial aid by constituents in at least two districts have amounted to more than $2 million combined.
Eighth and Second District representatives Marlon Penn and Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull told BVI News during an media conference on Wednesday that the needs of their respective constituents have been growing amid the health crisis.
The legislators were responding to questions about government’s recent allocation of $300,000 to each district. They said the needs of their districts far outweighed the resources made available for each representative.
“I have over $700,000 in requests from persons who have real needs that I have tabulated and I have only gotten $300,000. It shows the grave need of persons within our society,” Penn said during Wednesday’s press conference with members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
“We just got access to those funds less than two weeks now and now we have sent forward requests from our constituency because we see the dire need for persons throughout our community. [These are] persons who have fallen behind on their rent [and] persons who just really need some money to put food on their table for themselves and their families,” he added.
The needs are real!
Penn also said the needs of his constituents are genuine as persons have been submitting proof of hardship to support their claims for relief.
“They are sharing with us their bills and the obligations they have and we’ve been fighting to try to get that support out to persons throughout our communities.”
He further said there are persons and businesses in the tourism industry who have not been paid or earned revenue in six months.
“How are these people to survive when their businesses and their apartments and their rents that are owed are the only ways of survival for those persons?” Penn questioned.
False rumours of sitting on the $300K
The Eighth District representative also dismissed what he described as circulating rumours suggesting that members were “sitting on the money” and not trying to help persons in need of assistance.
The money wasn’t available … We now see that the money is there. We had a conversation yesterday with the Financial Secretary and the Accountant General to ensure that we are all on the same page in terms of how we can help our constituents and make sure that they get the support in a timely manner,” he explained.
$1.65M in request from Second District
Meanwhile, Second District Representative Turnbull said the requests from his constituents more than double what Penn had declared for the Eighth District.
“Honourable Penn said he had $700,000 in requests. I think in terms of the number of people his district is much bigger than mine, but mine was $1.65 million for the Second District.”
Turnbull said the high volume of requests is because his constituency is heavily reliant on the tourism sector, which continues to be at a halt locally. He listed areas such as Jost Van Dyke, Cane Garden Bay, and Brewers Bay whose “the only means of income” is tourism.
“What we’ve been trying to do since the money has become available is trying to find ways that we can make a dollar out of 15 cents, but trying to help as many people as possible,” Turnbull added.
In the meantime, Penn said that a proper plan is needed for the BVI to assist the affected persons and businesses in getting back to generating some level of income.
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