PETALING JAYA: The aid and initiatives for the urban poor and vulnerable groups under the recent Pemerkasa stimulus programme are a welcome effort that’s much-lauded by the B40 community.
Pemerkasa – or the People and Economic Strategic Empowerment Programme – includes various provisions for these groups under the Bantuan Rentan Bandar (Aid for Urban Vulnerable Group) initiative.
Among those who hailed the initiative was former quality assurance supervisor Mohd Zaini Saleh, 54.
“In these trying times, many people have lost jobs and any aid will help the affected families. For instance, if there is food aid for one month, at least for that month they don’t have to worry so much about putting food on the table.
“Such types of aid are definitely needed by the B40 community, ” said the longtime resident of Desa Mentari PPR (People’s Housing Project) here.
The father of six – including three stepchildren – aged 24 to 37, is a Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat (BPR) recipient. His wife is a homemaker.
Mohd Zaini recently chose to resign from his company of 35 years due to poor health.
He knows too well that not having a job is worrying, especially for those with dependants. But luckily for him, his children are all grown up.
He said the RM500 one-off assistance given to those in the B40 category who had lost their jobs was a good move.
“Although it is only a one-time payment, it serves as a buffer and helps people tide over tough times while the unemployed plan their next step, ” he said.
Taxi driver Pall Singh, 60, has also been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“During the first movement control order last year, my business dropped sharply and I struggled to make ends meet. My biggest worry was putting food on the table, paying my housing loan, car instalment, groceries and other miscellaneous bills, ” said the father of two, whose wife is a homemaker.
Last April, Pall received RM1,000 under the BPR initiative. He was among thousands of Malaysians under the B40 and M40 groups who gained benefits from the initiative.
“The money was helpful to cover some of my expenses, ” he said.
Pall, who has been driving a taxi for 15 years, was pleased when he heard about the recent Pemerkasa programme.
“I am happy that our government is taking extra steps to help the rakyat. Any aid, be it food vouchers or money, can go a long way, especially for B40 families.
“Hopefully, our economy will get better after the country completes its national vaccination programme, ” said the retired physical training instructor with the Royal Malaysian Air Force.
Through Pemerkasa, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government will allocate RM1.2bil to help 2.4 million people from the B40 group as well as BPR recipients.
This will come in the form of one-off cash assistance of RM500 to those from the B40 group who have lost their income and BPR recipients earning RM1,000 and below.
To reduce the cost of living, especially for the urban poor, the government will also allocate RM100mil for families to buy basic food items via a cashless payment method (see graphic on MyKasih).
The programme is expected to benefit 300,000 poor households nationwide.
Roy Tan, general manager of GT Community Care Bhd, a non-profit charity organisation, said the aid for the vulnerable group is timely.
“Definitely, the initiative comes at a critical time because many people are going through some form of suffering and hardship due to the economic crisis, ” he said.
Adding that food is a basic necessity, he said the RM100mil allocated for needy families to get basic food items is a plus point.
“Together with the need to pay for rental and utilities, and with schools reopening, there are extra expenses incurred, so any help is good, ” said Tan, adding that one of GT Community Care’s current programmes is running a food bank that provides for 150 poor families in Klang.
Dr James Nayagam, chairman of Suriana Welfare Society, welcomed the one-off cash assistance to those in the B40 group who have lost their jobs.
But he said medium and long-term solutions are needed to help the urban poor more effectively.
He said since the start of the first MCO last year, the society has provided food aid to 20,000 families within Petaling Jaya.
“The government initiative for the urban poor is a good move, but there needs to be accountability in terms of who gets what to make sure the needy people get the aid, ” he said.
He also said free WiFi in low-cost housing areas is something necessary to help bridge the digital divide in society.