The government will provide cash assistance of Tk930 crore to 35 lakh low income pandemic-stricken families, and one lakh peasant families affected by cyclones and hailstorms in their boro cultivation.
The money will be provided from a Tk10,000 crore fund set up in the current national budget to address the Covid-19 situation.
The 35 lakh poor families, who received a cash assistance of Tk2,500 each last year as the prime minister's Eid gift, will get the same amount this time as well, said Ihsanul Karim, Press Secretary to the prime minister.
Last year the government was supposed to provide cash assistance to 50 lakh poor families but it eventually reached 35 lakh families.
He said one lakh farmers in 36 districts of the country would also be given a one-time cash assistance of Tk5,000 each, as cyclones and hailstorms on April 4 damaged their boro fields.
According to the Department of Agricultural Extension, the hailstorm and cyclone completely destroyed 10,301 hectares of cropland, and partially damaged 59,326 hectares of cropland out of about 31 lakh hectares of cropland.
The agriculture ministry has recommended financial assistance of Tk5,000 per person to these unemployed and affected farmers.
The ministry is working on compiling a list of affected farmers. The amount of required funds may change depending on the number of farmers on the final list.
The government has announced a seven-day lockdown from April 14 after a nine-day softer lockdown from April 5 after the outbreak of the second wave of Covid-19 in the country in March. The government may extend the ongoing lockdown till May 1, sources said.
During this time, the government has taken initiative to provide cash assistance as well as food assistance to unemployed poor families.
From next week, the government will start distribution of 10kg of rice, 1kg of pulses, one litre of soybean oil, 1kg of salt and 4kg of potatoes under the "humanitarian food aid" to each of 1.25 crore families, said State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief, Md Enamur Rahman.
"The strict lockdown has come into force from 14 April after the previous week's half-hearted lockdown. But so far, we have no reports of any poor families facing a food crisis. We think they will need food aid towards the end of the ongoing one-week lockdown or if the lockdown gets extended for another week. So from next week, we will start distributing food relief," he added.
In pre-budget talks with Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, economists recommended providing food and cash assistance to the unemployed poor during the ongoing lockdown.
Ahsan H Mansoor, executive director of the Policy Research Institute, who attended the meeting, told The Business Standard that the decision to provide cash and food assistance to the poor was positive.
"But, if it is given rapidly during the lockdown, more benefits can be obtained," he added.
Since the pandemic started in the country in March last year, in addition to food assistance to the unemployed poor, the government has allocated Tk8,043 crore, undertaking six incentive packages to ensure food and social security for the poor.
These include the prime minister's Eid gift of Tk2,500 to each of 50 lakh unemployed poor families, enhancing social security coverage, a three month allowance of Tk3,000 to unemployed workers, distribution of rice at Tk10 per kg, and increasing the amount of allowance for the poor, elderly, and widows.
According to the Finance Division, Tk3,008 crore has been spent for these programmes till February this year.
Tk770 crore has been spent on distributing rice at the rate of only Tk10 per kg.
Apart from this, Tk23 crore out of Tk815 crore was allocated to increase the coverage of social security programmes, Tk880 crore out of Tk1,258 crore for Eid gifts to 50 lakh families, Tk5 crore out of a Tk1,500 crore fund for providing allowances to unemployed workers in the readymade garments, leather, and footwear industries, with Tk262 crore being spent out of the Tk1,200 crore, to increase social safety coverage of poor widows and the elderly.