Relief packages come to aid of vulnerable

September 02, 2021 | 11:28
(0) user say
Millions of self-employed workers in extreme circumstances in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are reaching out to access support packages in order to stabilise their lives and get through strict social distancing.
Citizens are having to adjust and support each other along with receiving government aid, Photo: Le Toan
Citizens are having to adjust and support each other along with receiving government aid. Photo: Le Toan

Hanoi’s Ngoc Ha ward in Ba Dinh district is well known for its botanical garden, quirky and hectic alleys and streets, and sits alongside the magnificent Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. Today, the operations of many cafes, restaurants, and other services lining the alleys have been seriously restricted and, for more than a week, Nguyen Van To has been busy meeting those affected by COVID-19.

To, the head of a neighbourhood group in the ward, said that he now has a list of more than 100 people who are most seriously affected by the pandemic, but not everyone is eligible to meet the requirements set out by local authorities that ensure they can be supported with VND1 million ($43.50) each.

“Nearly half of the beneficiaries are self-employed workers from other localities. They have not had a job for many weeks now and cannot go back to their hometown. We are trying to help these people receive support as soon as possible,” To said.

Meanwhile, in a boarding house in Cau Giay district just a few km from To’s place, dozens of workers from other localities of various ages and jobs have also heard about the financial support package. However, they do not know how to acquire confirmation documents from their hometowns while they are stuck in the city.

According to regulations, self-employed workers who lose their jobs in Hanoi must have an application for financial support certified by the place of residence to enjoy the support package. The requirement to gain confirmation documents from one’s place of permanent residence serves to avoid “taking advantage” of the policy and to determine who exactly would get the money.

Cau Giay district alone has more than 10,000 self-employed workers, mainly from other localities. The verification and listing of this number of workers are still in progress, but the number of self-employed workers eligible for the support package so far is only 132 people.

Nguyen Thi Hien, a self-employed worker from the central province of Nghe An said, “We can ask family members to send the confirmation documents, but it will take a long time. During social distancing, only essential items are prioritised.”

While waiting, Hien and the workers at the boarding house have been eating instant noodles for six days.

The VND26 trillion ($1.13 billion) COVID-19 relief package has been approved since the beginning of July, but implementation still faces problems related to procedures to determine valid beneficiaries.

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are speeding up disbursement and giving support packages to the right people through reducing procedures and being flexible in the application of new solutions.

Ho Chi Minh City, the first locality to provide financial support in recent times, has also witnessed the massive migration of thousands of workers to their hometowns when the city decided to extend the imposition of social distancing rules.

To help people feel secure to stay in the city when there is no job and income, Ho Chi Minh City is planning to launch another VND 900 billion ($39.1 million) assistance package, in addition to the support package that will be implemented in August and September and the city’s first support package that has been conducted since mid-July.

Le Minh Tan, director of Ho Chi Minh City Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said that the city is mobilising all resources and will support more than 2.5 million people coping with difficulties posed by COVID-19 with VND1 million ($43.50) and 10kg of rice each. Ho Chi Minh City also plans to support rental fees for 1,580 households in boarding houses facing difficult circumstances with VND 1.5 million ($65) each. “Cash support will be brought directly to everyone. Ho Chi Minh City will not let people be destitute, it is better to spend more than to leave someone out,” affirmed Tan.

In addition, the local authorities are delivering one million welfare packages consisting of foodstuffs and essential commodities for disadvantaged people during this week.

A centre receiving essential goods to support needy people was also launched in mid-August through the Social Security Benefits app.

In Hanoi, the city’s Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs has sent a written request to relevant units to receive applications of workers by emails and other online forms and increase flexibility in processing documents and procedures. According to data from Hanoi Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, it is expected that more than 324,000 people from 10 groups will be entitled to the city’s aid package worth more than VND345 billion ($15 million).

Hanoi has proposed an additional VND500 billion ($21.8 million) be lent to workers in the city through the local Vietnam Bank for Social Policies branch to help restore production and business, support job creation, and overcome the impact of the pandemic.

Borrowers are workers from poor households, near-poor households, and households escaping poverty; blind and disabled workers who need loans to create jobs and stable incomes; workers who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19; or those who need loans to restore production and business, create jobs, and stabilise incomes.

The additional capital is expected to meet about 44 per cent of workers’ capital needs and contribute to the creation of 10,000 jobs with an average loan amount of about VND50 million ($2,200) per worker.

Thus, in addition to the general policies, Hanoi is adding many specific policies to support people with an estimated budget of more than VND800 billion ($34 million) by this time.

The support policies are expected to help workers hit hard by the pandemic, especially as the current wave of infections caused the unemployment and underemployment rates in the second quarter to increase sharply. The number of unemployed people in the country is nearly 1.2 million and the number of underemployed is about 1.1 million, according to the General Statistics Office.

Nguyen Hoai Duc - Head of the General Office, Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs

People can contact our hotline to ask questions about the implementation of support packages. The ministry also built an information system to issue accounts for district-level officers to update the progress of implementing support packages of localities. As of August 11, all localities in the country are disbursing support packages, but the implementation progress in some northern mountainous provinces is still slow.

Compared with the implementation of the first support package under Resolution No.42/NQ-CP last year, the ministry this time does not specify but empowers the local people’s committees to determine the group of workers and occupations to receive support. Therefore, many localities have identified occupations and workers that are more suitable for their situation.

Some localities also have more flexible regulations on beneficiaries of the support package. In An Giang, workers are only required to present temporary residence certified by the local police to receive support. Bac Lieu and Hoa Binh provinces are more creative when stipulating self-employed workers who are pregnant or have children under six years old will receive additional support of VND1 million ($43.50).

While Ho Chi Minh City is offering very humane policies such as vaccinating workers from other localities and supporting them with food and accommodation, many other localities are also implementing solutions to welcome workers from Ho Chi Minh City back home.

Nguyen Hong Dan - Deputy director, Hanoi Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs

Hanoi pledges to ensure no-one will be left behind. Before the support packages were launched, the city called on organisations, individuals, and donors nationwide to support workers. Regarding the group of self-employed workers, the required procedures to receive support are quite complicated, but some districts have flexible solutions.

Specifically, in Cau Giay and Tay Ho districts, members of the community COVID-19 management teams directly helped people with required documents and procedures so that they could receive support in time. It is necessary to identify the right beneficiaries and avoid the situation of profiteering, and we will also propose solutions to remove and simplify the procedures.

Regarding self-employed workers who cannot return to their hometowns to get confirmation documents, we will also recommend to Hanoi People’s Committee to hand out cash support and necessities based on temporary residence, identity cards, or citizen cards, asking people to write a commitment to receive support at one place. This information will be sent by the local authorities where the worker resides for management and avoidance of policy profiteering.

In addition to the beneficiaries under Resolution No.68/NQ-CP, Hanoi also approved an aid package for various groups of people in the city. These include poor households, social welfare beneficiaries, revolutionary contributors and soldiers, employees who have had their labour contracts suspended or have taken unpaid leave, employees who have had their labour contracts terminated, owners of private kindergartens who had to stop working for at least 15 days due to COVID-19 from May 1 this year to the end of December, and also pregnant employees.

For workers who have lost their jobs, Hanoi has 15 job transaction floors located in 13 districts, helping workers and employers easily access and receive support.

By Hoang Oanh

What the stars mean:

★ Poor ★ ★ Promising ★★★ Good ★★★★ Very good ★★★★★ Exceptional