Emergency fund to tide residents over sudden crises

Emergency fund to tide residents over sudden crises
Madam Aishah Abdullah, who had her left leg amputated to the knee due to diabetes, is one of the beneficiaries of the South-West Community Development Council's.

Needy residents struck by emergencies – be it a fire or an unexpected death of a breadwinner – have been turning to the community development councils (CDCs) to tide over hard times.

Over the years, three CDCs – North West, North East and South East – have put aside money for this purpose. The latest to do so is South West CDC, which launched a $200,000 Emergency Relief Fund at its annual meeting at ITE College West last night.

“The fund gives the affected residents a lifeline or avenue of help as they recover from the shock and find their feet again,” said Mayor of South West District Low Yen Ling.

The emergency relief funds are for residents who need cash urgently. For example, they may need help with funeral expenses when the sole breadwinner dies.

These low-income families may already be on financial aid schemes but sometimes the money does not come fast enough. Others narrowly miss the income criteria for national aid schemes.

South West CDC residents who meet the household income cap, such as not exceeding the combined monthly household income of $3,000 and other housing type criteria can get $250 to $1,000 upfront from the emergency fund.

The $200,000 was donated by philantropist Tor Lam Huat, creator of skincare brands Ginvera and Bio-essence.

The CDC, which serves about 830,000 residents, also roped in sponsors such as Akira Corporation and King Koil Singapore to provide furniture, bed sets and household appliances to refurbish affected homes.

The first to set up such a fund was South East CDC in 2009. About 30 residents benefit from it every year. North East CDC started a fund two years later and has helped more than 70 residents in the last two years.

With the CDCs having the discretion to decide who to help, some people have asked if there are enough checks against abuse. When asked, the South East CDC said social workers would assess if applicants have genuine needs.

Real needs could be that of a widow suffering from spinal problems who required a health mattress or a single mother supporting three kids who needed a refrigerator. Both received help.

North East CDC said in turn that the arrears are sometimes paid directly to vendors.

South West CDC has processes to prevent abuse, such as caps on the amounts that can be claimed, while still providing speedy help, said Ms Low. “We will provide immediate upfront relief within five working days from the time the requests come in,” she said.


This article was published on Aug 7 in The Straits Times.

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