COVID-19: $27 million package announced for NGOs to ensure essential goods get to those in need

A $27 million package has been announced to ensure non-Government organisations (NGOs) and community groups can continue to provide food and other essential goods to those who need it. 

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said as New Zealand goes into COVID-19 alert level 4, a range of social services provided by NGOs and community groups will remain open and continue to deliver "essential services". 

"They are supporting New Zealanders to stay well during our fight to break the chain of transmission of the virus, which will save lives," Sepuloni said, as the country enters a four-week lockdown where most people are at home, unable to work. 

The package supports services that ensure people have access to food and other goods they need to survive; provide a place for people to live; support disabled people to maintain wellbeing; and keep families safe from harm and offer crisis support. 

Sepuloni said self-isolation can also mean the risk of family violence increases, so the Government is also making sure family violence and sexual violence services will remain available for those who need them. 

"As has been the case in countries around the world around the world battling the global pandemic, there have been significant increases in the demand for these essential social sector services," Sepuloni said. 

"Salvation Army did 3100 parcels last week with significantly higher demand in the Auckland and Northland regions," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. "This package will support providers to keep up with demand."

The PM said she has been advised that Auckland City Mission distributes around 500 food parcels per week, but had a 50 percent increase in demand from last Friday through to Wednesday, and that they're now only taking requests via phone. 

Social Service Providers Aotearoa (SSPA) national manager Brenda Pilott welcomed the package, particularly how it will ensure people get food. 

"Community social services are already feeling the effects of the increased demand for help from families struggling to cope with the lockdown," she said. 

"There's huge concern for families lacking the resources to get enough food, so it's good to see this as one of the strong focuses of this package."

How will the money be split?

Sepuloni said up to $16 million will be used to bolster existing essential social services delivered by NGOs so they can continue to support people, their families and communities at risk through uncertain circumstances, and respond to increased demand. 

Disability assistance providers will get $6 million of the funding, while the rest - $4.8 million - will go towards providing community grants or to fund community-led solutions to support local resilience. 

A list of NGOs and community groups that qualify as essential will be made available in the next day or two, and will be found here

You can access specific advice for people experiencing family violence here

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed on Thursday 78 new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, bringing the total to 283.