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Financial assistance – what you need to know

Local News 25 Oct, 2023 Follow News

Hon Andre Ebanks

Under new laws expected to be enacted next month, the new Department of Financial Assistance will be the entity that oversees financial assistance for any Caymanian living in the Cayman Islands who believes they are in need of financial help from the government. The Department will be replacing the Needs Assessment Unit, which has been the place people have traditionally gone to seek financial assistance. New laws are also being brought in for people who wish to make financial assistance appeals.

The first thing to know is that there will not be any changes for people currently receiving financial assistance. People will be able to continue to receive financial assistance until their current approval expires. When it expires, they will have to reapply under the new laws.

One of the main changes will be to household composition, i.e., who is included when you apply for financial assistance. Financial assistance depends on how many people are in the household. While a ‘household’ is defined as a person who lives alone or two or more people who live at the same place and who benefit from each other’s income, the new regulations account for certain circumstances that the Department already sees quite a bit, such as where there is an adult who lives with their parents, that adult can apply for financial assistance on their own without their parents, as long as no one else in the house is applying. Secondly, if an older person lives with their adult child, the elderly person can apply on their own. Thirdly, if an adult has a disability and they live with their parents the disabled person can still get financial assistance.

One month of financial assistance will be granted in an emergency, regardless of whether the person applying meets the eligibility criteria, so long as they fall under the following circumstances: if they have suffered domestic violence; if there is a disaster; if there is a significant risk of harm; or if someone is in need of urgent aid.

Eligibility criteria is broken up into four parts:

1. The person who applies for financial assistance must be Caymanian or a spouse or partner who is living with a Caymanian or a guardian of a dependent of a Caymanian;

2. The person needs to be resident on island to apply, for at least 8 out of the last 12 months;

3. Income and savings are looked at as a household. This is regardless of how many people there are in your household. Currently, if you have more than $3,000 income and $3,000 savings combined, you are not eligible. Now, the new law looks at how many people are in the household. For one to three people, it is $3,000 maximum income and the same in savings; for 4-6 it’s $3,500 and where there are 7 or more persons in a household, it is $4,000. Where there are people with disabilities, the savings threshold is $15,000.

4. There has to be a deficit in the household, which means expenses must be more than income. The Department’s mission is to cover the threshold.

Investment, Innovation and Social Development Minister Andre Ebanks explained that it was important for the Department to look at people’s savings and, should they have sufficient savings in the bank, they will not be granted financial assistance. He advised that financial assistance was “the last stop on the train” and was welfare rather than a pension top up. This could mean that someone with savings now may have to spend those funds in order to live, only to have to come to the Department once those funds have been depleted.

“This may mean that there are other policy areas within the wider government framework, that may need an adjustment that is now falling on top of the Department because they are the only one handing out money. When you take a step back you realise that this is not meant for that. This is somehow still only providing a Band-Aid over a bridge over other areas within government wider policy which needs a reform,” he advised.

Next time we look at the application process.

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