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Prime Minister Imran Khan Monday launched the newly added category-IV of ongoing Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme to provide financial assistance to those who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

In an event organized by the Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division, the PM formally gave the go-ahead to start the distribution of cash among the deserving persons under the category-IV. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar, Federal Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar and other senior government officials were present on the occasion.

At the event, the PM interacted with different people and listened to their problems related to livelihoods.

According to Prime Minister's Office, the donations received under the Prime Minister's Corona Relief Fund would be utilized to financially assist the beneficiaries of the category-IV of Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme. So far, the donations exceeding Rs 3 billion have been collected in the Fund, the PMO said. The federal government will contribute four rupees for every rupee donated to the Fund, it added.

Till Friday, more than 3.4 million applications were registered at the Prime Minister's Labour Portal seeking financial assistance under category-IV. The application forms for the category-IV of Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme can be accessed from the Prime Minister's Office's official website. The PM had inaugurated the Labour Portal on May 2.

Under Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, Rs144 billion are being spent to provide Rs12,000 each to 12 million deserving families. Each family eligible for financial assistance under this programme has been/is being given one-time payment of Rs12,000 on the basis of four-monthly assistance of Rs 3,000 per month.

According to the data issued by Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division, till May 18, a total of Rs 106,502.70 million were distributed among 8,750,691 deserving beneficiaries across Pakistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB) under Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme .

Moreover, till May, Rs 54,970.54 million were distributed since April 9 among 4,456,344 beneficiaries of the Kifaalat Programme under category-I of Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme.

Under category-II, Rs 37,420.31 million have been distributed among 3,118,359 beneficiaries identified through Short Messaging Service (SMS). Under category III, Rs 14,111.86 million have been distributed among 1,175,988 beneficiaries identified through the district administrations concerned.

The distribution of cash under category II and III is ongoing.

"The existing principles and processes that have been deployed for Ehsaas Emergency Cash will be fully applied in the use of the Prime Minister's COVID 19 donor funds.

Rule-based controls will be fully adhered to. Data analytics will be employed for the selection of beneficiaries. The system of identification will be fully apolitical and free from human interference," a press release said.

"Payments will be done after biometric verification. There will be full transparency in deployment of funds.

Tehsil level Bank disbursement and withdrawal details will be made public, just as in the case of Ehsaas Emergency Cash, under a separate category IV and will be posted on the official website," it added.

The federal cabinet has earmarked a total of Rs 200 billion to financially support the deserving population affected by lockdown measures taken by the federal government to stop the spread of coronavirus including Rs 144 allocated for Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme. The remaining Rs 56 billion have been allocated as a standby arrangement to financially support the labour class in case the number of those seeking assistance under Ehsaas Emergency cash Programme exceed 12 million.

The federal government has also launched Ehsaas Emergency Cash Transfers initiative that aims to provide financial assistance mainly to labourers and other deserving population who have lost their livelihood in the backdrop of the rapid spread of coronavirus across the country.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020