Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi relief fund to pay school fees and food expenses for struggling families

A fund worth tens of millions of dirhams is open to residents in need

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , March 22 – 2020 :- Eden Stewart (5 years old) KG student of Dubai American Academy during the online class at her home in the Springs in Dubai. Today is the first day of distance learning as all the schools are closed as a preventive measure against coronavirus. (Pawan Singh / The National) For News/Online/Instagram. Story by Sarwat Nasir
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Struggling families can apply to receive financial support to pay school fees, the Abu Dhabi government said on Sunday.

A public fund worth tens of millions of dirhams was set up to help parents who have seen wages cut or jobs lost.

The programme extends to cash for food and help with rent, if needed.

The 'Together We Are Good' drive is being run by the Authority of Social Contribution - Ma'an, with the support of Abu Dhabi's Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek).

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Many parents are now more than ever facing challenges in paying school fees due to a short-term loss of income or unemployment

The fund is for "parents with children attending private schools in Abu Dhabi who are affected by the current economic challenges, by paying school fees or providing devices for distance learning," Abu Dhabi Government Media Office said.

Families can apply for support with education expenses, healthcare, food, basic needs by contacting Ma'an on 800-3088 or by visiting http://togetherwearegood.ae.

The closing date for applications is 23rd April 2020. The programme also provides for families who need essential devices for their children such as tablets or laptops.

"We recognise that in the current circumstances, some families may require special support," said Adek chairperson Sara Musallam.

"Many parents are now more than ever facing challenges in paying school fees due to a short-term loss of income or unemployment. In these unprecedented times, it is only right that we extend a helping hand to support them."

In other developments, a top judge reiterated a new law that compels firms laying off staff to pay the 'housing allowance' part of the employee's salary until they find a new job or leave the country.

Abdulla Al Nuaimi, head of the Abu Dhabi Labour Court, urged anyone who was denied the settlement to contact the labour court in their emirate. His court has dealt with 400 claims since the crisis began, he said.

Also on Sunday, the UAE government said it was considering measures against countries that have refused to allow expats to return home. Officials did not state which countries were being considered.

In Abu Dhabi, Adek said parents should apply through the website listed and then contact their school. They will also have to provide proof of loss of earnings.

Employees who have taken a pay cut or unpaid leave will have to submit proof of a change in salary, in the form of bank statements and letter from their employer.

If they have lost their job, a copy of the termination letter would have to be submitted. Self-employed residents would have to submit financial statements showing the impact on earnings from January to March.

The fund was made possible by donations from private individuals and from public and private sector companies.

Among them were members of the royal family, including Sheikh Sultan bin Hamdan, who pledged Dh20 million, the government media office said.

Ma'an can accept donations small and large through a text message, WhatsApp and phone number service.

“I continue to be humbled by the generosity of spirit and kindness from individuals and organisations across Abu Dhabi who have contributed to ‘Together We Are Good’," said Salama Al Ameemi, director general of Ma’an.

"Every day, we are receiving offers of assistance from all sectors – both public and private – and each contribution is highly valued and appreciated. As this partnership shows, your contributions are making a real difference to the lives of people across Abu Dhabi.”

Many families have become reliant on support from charities and community groups in recent weeks.

Shukoor Ali Kallungal, president of the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre in Abu Dhabi, said his organisation has taken 50 to 100 calls each day.

The group delivered 10 tonnes of food to about 1,500 families who have suffered lost earnings in the past two weeks.

Many were sales employees in stores and for suppliers, while others ran small businesses selling mobile phones, textiles and watch repair.

“Many work on a commission basis and have targets that they cannot meet [while their employer is closed] so with no commission, their income is zero. This is the on-the-ground reality," he said.

"We will ask them to contact the government number for help. This is a humanitarian gesture and is highly appreciated."

Edgar Bacason, who co-ordinates programmes supported by the Philippines Embassy, said help from the relief fund was much needed, and knew of families in which both husband and wife are out of work.

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There are people who were between jobs before the virus attacked and who would hire them now

“It is a very tight situation families are facing and we are going to need as much as help as we can get,” he said.

“There are people who were between jobs before the virus attacked and now they too need assistance. Their chance of getting employed is much less, if not zero, because who would hire them now?”

Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, said the relief fund was important "as it directly supports households impacted".

She said any financial relief for households and businesses could prevent "a more marked and extended economic downturn from a secondary round effect from Covid-19".

Those who wish to contribute financially to the fund can send SMS messages to 6670 (Dh1000), 6678 (Dh500), 6683 (Dh100) and 6658 (Dh50). They can also call 8005-MAAN for volunteering and financial contributions above Dh1,000.

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