ISLAMABAD                -            The government on Thursday released the first installment of around Rs 49.2 billion to banks for further distribution of Ehsaas Emergency Cash to deserving families through 17,000 digital payment points across Pakistan.

With opening of as many as 17,000 digital payment points, the biometrically enabled payment operation commenced countrywide across all provinces including GB, AJK and Islamabad Capital Territory.

A total 46.38 million people have sent a SMS requesting to become beneficiaries of Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program, said a spokesperson for Ehsaas program. Federal Government has allocated Rs 144 billion for cash assistance of 12,000 rupees to over 12 million deserving families under Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The beneficiaries of cash assistance have been divided into three categories, in category one, Special cash assistance of Rs. 1,000 per month will be given to the currently enrolled 4.5 million Kafaalat beneficiary families, in addition to the regular cash transfer of Rs. 2,000 per month. They will get a lump sum of Rs 12,000 covering four months.  In Category two, 4 million daily wagers will receive Rs 12,000 per month. Higher eligibility or poverty threshold will be used to identify four million beneficiaries through the national socioeconomic databases. In the category three, another 3.5 million people will come from districts.

In the first phase, 4.5 million enrolled Kafaalat beneficiary families will get their emergency cash. In the second phase, starting next week, another 3.5 million deserving families will receive emergency cash.

The safety and security of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash beneficiaries arriving to collect cash assistance is the top priority of the government. All cash transfers are being made after biometric verification of each beneficiary through NADRA.

To ensure protection from virus transmission across payment operations, special disbursement arrangements have been put in place in close coordination with provincial governments. Social distancing measures are stringently enforced, including opening of payment points at open public spaces with multiple cash counters along with security for these spaces, permission to keep retail point of sale agents open, management of crowds at cash disbursement points and ensuring preventive measures like facility of hand washing etc. People are collecting cash from biometrically enabled payment points of Habib Bank in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan and Bank AlFalah across KP, GB and AJK.

To monitor the payment operations, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar visited HBL Konnect outlets in Bari Imam area of Islamabad and met with spouses of piece rate workers who had gathered to collect cash handouts under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program. Interacting with deserving women, Dr. Nishtar said, “Ehsaas has initiated the cash stipend payments to provide instant provide relief to the daily wagers whose livelihoods have been badly affected. This assistance is meant to help them buy rations so that they don’t go hungry. We have advised partnering banks to ensure sanitization at all touch points serving payments.”

According the spokesperson for registration in Ehsaas Emergency Cash, the deserving families can send SMS to 8171 service or can visit web-portal: ehsaas.nadra.gov.pk to check eligibility. Following registration, there are three types of messages in response of people's SMS - eligible, ineligible, or case under scrutiny.