FSM Information Services
Social Protection Programming for the Elderly, Persons with Disabilities, and Low-income Households Entering Pilot Stage; Program to be Expanded in March & April
PALIKIR, Pohnpei—In December 2020, His Excellency David W. Panuelo—President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)—announced a series of social protection programming designed to safeguard the Nation’s citizens against the detrimental economic impact resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic. As of February 18th, 2021, the Department of Finance & Administration (DOFA) has begun piloting the application forms and questionnaires for support to low-income households in Pohnpei State’s Municipality of U, and expects to expand the pilot to the States of Yap, Chuuk, and Kosrae during the week of February 22nd to 26th. The Department expects that the first checks for these programs will be cut sometime in the month of April, 2021.
Among the social protection programs include a cash transfer grant to approximately 4,500 low-income households outside of the formal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, a food security program for community groups and low-income households to enhance subsistence-living food production, community-based grants to strengthen awareness and prevention of COVID-19, and targeted assistance to vulnerable groups such as the elderly, persons with disabilities, and survivors of gender-based violence, which would come in the form of medical bill waivers, utility subsidy, and gender-based violence prevention kits.
“Right now, [DOFA] is visiting the municipal government offices to outline the low-income household support program, and then work with each municipality on the best way to distribute forms and collect the information back in the most expedient manner,” said the Honorable Eugene Amor, Secretary of Finance & Administration. “The idea is that any application form for a person or family needs to be signed off by the municipal government, which serves as validation that the person or family actually lives there. While these are FSM programs designed by President Panuelo, as they’re funded by the Asian Development Bank, it’s important that our foreign donors are as satisfied by our processes and procedures as the Office of the National Public Auditor.”
“We’re testing to see if people can fill in the data right, and also to see if we’re collecting complete information in order to make a determination as to eligibility for low-income support,” Secretary Amor said. “An important element of the pilot stage is to set up a computerized database where we can easily cross-check application data against social security and income tax data, to ensure that this program only goes to low-income households. We expect to expand the pilot in each of the FSM States next week—such as Utwe in Kosrae, Uman in Chuuk, and Tomil in Yap—and are working to secure staff in the States so they can assist.”
“The pilot stage is only testing the forms and application procedures,” Secretary Amor said, “But eligible applicants in pilot municipalities and all other municipalities throughout FSM would start receiving checks at the same time when check disbursement is ready to begin.”
Secretary Amor explained that the first checks for these programs will be cut sometime in the month of April, 2021. He indicated that just because some municipalities are piloting the forms doesn’t mean that they will receive assistance faster than anyone else.
The cash transfer program to approximately 4,500 low-income households is intended to provide temporary cash relief for households outside of the formal labor sector, such as subsistence farmers and fishermen, and specifically such laborers who do not qualify for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. Approximately six million dollars ($6,000,000) is allocated for this purpose, and is expected to provide a one-time assistance of $1,000 to each low-income household. Households are encouraged to use this assistance to enhance COVID-19 readiness by buying facemasks, sanitary needs, and other COVID-19 preventive items.
Other programs include the food security program for community groups and low-income households which is intended to provide subsistence livelihood training, and an equitable distribution of seeds, planting, and fishing materials, to vulnerable citizens at no cost. Approximately two million dollars ($2,000,000) is scheduled for this purpose. The National Department of Resources & Development (R&D) and State R&D Departments are establishing an implementation plan prior to the commencement of the program.
The community-based COVID-19 awareness grant is intended to strengthen awareness of COVID-19, inclusive of education on handwashing and social distancing, distribution of soaps, masks, and informational materials, and piloting a gender-based violence hotline in Pohnpei State. Approximately two million dollars ($2,000,000) is scheduled for this purpose. The National Department of Health and State Health Departments are preparing an implementation plan for this initiative.
The assistance program to vulnerable groups such as the elderly, persons with disabilities, and survivors of gender-based violence is intended to provide temporary waivers of medical expenses not included under funding from the Compact of Free Association, as Amended, electricity subsidies to an estimated 2,000 low-income households with dependents who have disabilities, distribution of solar lamps to an estimated 5,000 households on remote outer islands, and clinical management of rape and intimate partner violence kits and consultation options for survivors of gender-based violence. Approximately one million dollars ($1,000,000) is scheduled for this purpose.