4 more weeks to apply for tablet, laptop grant

4 more weeks to apply for tablet, laptop grant

Friday, December 04, 2020

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INDIVIDUALS trying to benefit from the Government's Own Your Own Device initiative have another four weeks to submit their applications after technical hiccups delayed the start of the process by a couple days.

The original deadline for the submission of applications was December 4, but this has now been extended to the end of the month, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education Dr Grace McLean told the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) at a meeting yesterday.

She advised that, so far, only 13,000 applications have been approved, of the targeted 36,000 families who are not on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) but are in need. Some 1,029 families who applied for the grant did not meet the criteria.

The programme, announced by portfolio Minister Fayval Williams on November 10, provides $20,000 for the purchase of a tablet or laptop. Families will have to make up the difference if the devices cost more, either by paying up front or entering into credit arrangements with vendors.

Meanwhile, some Members of Parliament (MP) complained about issues that they said were preventing those who needed the assistance from submitting applications.

Manchester North Western MP and chairman of the PAAC, Mikael Phillips, pointed to the system rejecting data entered by individuals and taxpayer registration numbers not being successfully cross-matched.

MP for Trelawny Northern Tova Hamilton also reported the challenge faced by students who do not have student registration numbers (SRNs), which is mandatory to apply for the grant.

Dr McLean explained that a list of SRNs were issued to schools prior to the start of the initiative, and checks show that the national student registration unit has addressed 250 requests for SRNs.

However, she assured that if in its investigations of specific cases the ministry finds that there are system glitches preventing the processing of applications, then families would be facilitated.

She said, too, that an eligibility criteria has been developed for the device suppliers, and that selection of approved vendors will begin in another two weeks.

With almost all credit arrangements now subject to credit scores, concerns also arose about the possibility of some parents or guardians who are unemployed not being approved by vendors.

— Alphea Saunders


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