Mayaguana Gets Visa Pre-Paid Cards/Acklins is the Final Stop

Officials of the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development and the Department of Social Services moved one giant step closer to ensuring that qualified recipients of the Department’s Food Assistance Programme throughout The Bahamas are in possession of their Visa Pre-Paid Cards, distributing the 40 cards following a verification, training and distribution process.

The launch in Mayaguana was conducted for residents of the three communities comprising Mayaguana – Abraham’s Bay, Betsy Bay and Pirate’s Well. Officially launched in New Providence in November 2014, the Visa Pre-Paid Card replaces the paper food coupons previously used as part of the Department of Social Services’ Food Assistance Programme.

Social Services officials have partnered with those from the Bank of The Bahamas in the development, implementation, distribution and monitoring of the Cards throughout the Family Islands. A little over twenty-four months since its official launch, the only island remaining on the schedule is Acklins – which was severely impacted by Hurricane Joaquin in 2015.

Social Services officials say now that businesses have been restored in addition to infrastructure, lives and homes, Acklins Islanders will receive their Visa Pre-Paid Cards by the end of March 2017, ensuring full coverage for clients of the Department’s Food Assistance Programme.

A training session was conducted for qualified recipients of the Food Assistance Programme and participating vendors in Mayaguana by Miss Tianya Johnson, Manager, Card Services, Bank of The Bahamas.

Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Sharon Griffin, applauded the work of staff of the Department of Social Services and the Bank of The Bahamas for ensuring Mayaguana’s launch. [Officials also worked with local businesses to ensure that they met the requirements necessary to have the cards operational.]

Mellany Zonicle, director, Department of Social Services; Cherely Kelly, assistant director, Community Support Services Division, Department of Social Services; and Miss Johnson accompanied Minister Griffin.

Mrs. Griffin said issuance of the cards in Mayaguana and other communities within the Commonwealth, is a “very strong signal” that the Government of The Bahamas remains committed to responding to the needs of all Bahamians in a timely fashion, wherever they may live and no matter how far they live from the capital.

Minister Griffin said partnership with local merchants on individual islands, also affords the Government the opportunity to create business opportunities in those islands. The Cards can be used anywhere in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas by qualified recipients at approved business establishments, but Social Services officials encourage their clients to use the cards locally in order to boost those economies.

“I am so happy to be here in Mayaguana to present these cards to you, our clients. I am also quite happy that the local merchants have agreed to be a part of this process,” Mrs. Griffin told residents.

“It is our mandate to supply assistance to Bahamians wherever they may live and no matter how far-flung those islands are,” Mrs. Griffin said. “It would be much easier if The Bahamas was not an archipelagic nation (spread out over 100,000 square miles of ocean), but no matter where you live, we have been given the mandate to have a presence.”

Mrs. Griffin said the implementation of the Visa Pre-Paid Card into the Family Islands has allowed qualified recipients of the Food Assistance Programme more flexibility in their purchases, while speeding up payments to vendors.

“The Visa Pre-Paid Cards provide clients with a better way of managing their purchases during the course of a month and at their convenience,” Mrs. Griffin said. “No longer will clients have to pick up all of their groceries at one time or in one place. With the food coupon, if clients went into the food store and did not use it all at one time, that was it.

“Now, clients can measure their spending to better suit their household needs. If they want to buy meat at one place, and their dry goods at another store, they now have the flexibility to do that. If they want to break down their purchases into four monthly purchases, or however is most beneficial to their household needs, then they now have the capability of doing that.

“We are more than happy with this new, modern payment system as additionally, vendors will receive payments within 48 hours. This means an immediate increase in cash flow and eliminates the high level of paperwork for accounting purposes,” Mrs. Griffin added.

The Card also guarantees clients the opportunity to make approved purchases on groceries anywhere in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas at approved stores that either accept Visa Pre-Paid Cards or have Point-of-Sales machines – thereby providing clients who may have to conduct inter-island travel the flexibility of making purchases at approved vendors anywhere in The Bahamas.

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