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ISLAMABAD: The federal government has decided to launch second phase of Ehsaas Emergency Cash (EEC) under which a number of regular beneficiaries' will be increased to 8 million by next month, official sources told Business Recorder.

Federal government in April 2020 launched Ehsaas Emergency Cash (EEC) in order to mitigate the effects of coronavirus lockdown on the most vulnerable segments. The task of identification and disbursement to eligible beneficiaries was assigned to Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).

BISP identified around 17 million eligible families under five different categories, including regular beneficiaries of Ehsaas Kafaalat. The disbursement process was initiated on April 9, 2020 and concluded on September 15, 2020. An amount of Rs. 179.27 billion was disbursed to 14.83 million beneficiaries under EEC.

Due to the third wave of Covid-19, in mid-2021, economic hardships are increasing due to which it has been proposed to launch phase-II of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash (EEC).

Consequently, a formal proposal is being submitted through a summary for approval of ECC and Cabinet.

The main elements of the 2nd phase of EEC would be as under: (i) number of regular Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiaries will be increased to 8 million by June, 2021 through ongoing National Socio Economic Registry (NSER) survey as per eligibility criteria for Ehsaas Kafaalat, approved by the BISP Board. All these beneficiaries will be provided a 6 monthly tranche (January-June, 2021) of Rs. 12,000/- per beneficiary under Ehsaas Kafaalat; (ii) 4 million additional beneficiaries will be identified through ongoing NSER survey by using higher eligibility threshold while remaining within national poverty line. These 4 million beneficiaries will also be provided one-time emergency cash assistance of Rs. 12,000/- per beneficiary. The disbursement process for these beneficiaries will be initiated in May 2021; (iii) cash assistance will be provided through existing partner banks of BISP (Bank Alfalah in KP, AJK & GB and Habib Bank Limited in Punjab, Balochistan & Sindh) and ;(iv) the assistance will be provided through biometrically enabled ATMs and retail Points of Sale (POS) agents, as well as through dedicated bank branches for beneficiaries with thumb amputee/biometric failures.

The current network of these two banks will be expanded for the purpose of this payment and special arrangements will also be put in place to ensure safe delivery of cash.

For disbursement to regular Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiaries BISP has sufficient budgetary support. As for disbursement of one-time emergency cash assistance to 4 million additional beneficiaries, the total financial impact would be approximately Rs. 48 billion. BISP has disbursed approximately Rs. 12 billion to beneficiaries under 18 phase of EEC from its own budget during current fiscal year, which needs to be reimbursed by the Finance Division. Moreover, BISP is expecting saving of Rs. 10 billion from spending of current FY.

An amount of Rs. 12 billion reimbursement and saving of Rs. 10 billion would enable BISP to make payments to around 1.8 out of 4 million beneficiaries under Ehsaas Emergency Cash assistance during current fiscal year. Whereas, additional budget of Rs. 26.4 billion would be required for making disbursements to remaining 2.2 out of 4 million beneficiaries in next fiscal year (2021-22).

It has been proposed that Rs. 26.4 billion may be provided to BISP during FY 2021-22, in addition to the budgetary allocation for 2021-22, for disbursement to 2.2 million beneficiaries. Moreover, the Finance Division may also reimburse Rs. 12 billion immediately which were disbursed by BISP from its own budget.

Finance Division has supported the proposal for increasing the number of regular Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiaries to eight million by June 2021 and has agreed in-principle to provide requisite funds for 2nd Phase of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash initiative if the Prime Minister takes a decision in this regard.

Moreover, Finance Division has advised that emergency cash support may be provided to persons/families other than regular Ehsaas Kafaalat programme to maximize overall welfare impact. For provision of funds during the current financial year, Finance Division has advised that Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division would need to approach the ECC only for funds required through a Technical Supplementary Grant whereas funds for next year will be allocated in the next year's budget.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021