ORANJESTAD – Three months after the corona crisis started on Aruba, thousands of families depend on food aid from different aid organizations. A lot of them don’t get the Fase benefit provided by the government, especially for those who lost their jobs.

Daniel Tecklenborg from Cede Aruba, the organization that collects funds for the food bank and other aid projects said that they were expecting to hand out 5000 food packages in May. “Volunteers also cook 250 warm meals a day which the Red Cross distributes.”
There are also various initiatives by private individuals like Ajudo na Aruba #covid19. “We feed 5000 to 6000 hungry mouths”, says Annelot Muijres.

Haven’t received benefit yet
The growth in the demand for aid is enormous compared to March and April. A lot of people still had some income in those months. The government promised back then that people who lost their incomes could request a Fase benefit of 950 florins (about 480 euros) per month. More than eleven thousand individuals applied for such a benefit, but less than half have received the funds thus far.

The government admits that there are some startup problems. “An additional 30 people have been added to the department to handle the extra workload”, according to prime minister Evelyn Wever-Croes. But people are still complaining that even though their application has been approved, they have yet to receive the funds.

And there’s a different problem, so it seems from the stories put forth by the aid organizations and the population. Thousands of individuals are not eligible for a Fase benefit because they were moonlighting or they are undocumented. Or because employers don’t want to cooperate with the registration of their employees.

‘There are surely tens of thousands who will not receive the benefit’-Daniel Tecklenborg, director Cede Aruba

“I worked as a dishwasher at the La Cabana hotel. But through a contractor”, says Odalis Hernandez. She has been unable to get the benefit through her employer who has also let her go.
“There are surely tens of thousands of people who will not receive the benefit”, says Tecklenborg. According to him a lot of people also don’t get help because they are ashamed of their situation and don’t ask for help.

Gianaika van der Biezen, director of the foodbank Fundacion Pa Nos Comunidad, says that they usually distribute around 200 packages per month. “That has gone up to 2000 per month. Aruba has never endured a crisis like this.”

She anticipates, as many other aid organizations do, that the demand for aid will only increase. “People will mostly contact family or neighbors for aid at the start of a crisis. But the longer this goes on, the more that aid also starts disappearing.”

‘The demand will only go up’– Gianaika van der Biezen, director Voedselbank Aruba
The benefit show of actor and comedian Jandino Asporaat last Saturday, and the donations that came in afterwards managed to raise at least 940.000 euros. The funds will go towards food packages which are being distributed amongst the populations of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. The reporting presented in this article were used as part of the broadcast. The entire live show can be watched here.