Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, has formally launched the Ondo State Covid Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (ONDO-CARES) as part of measures to cushion the effects of Covid-19 pandemic on the poor and vulnerable and stabilise micro and small enterprises affected by the pandemic.

The Governor disclosed that 80,734 beneficiaries which cut across different segments of the population have been captured and targeted under the implementation of the programme in the State.

Governor Akeredolu said beneficiaries of the intervention include 2,340 poor and vulnerable persons; 3,705 youths (male and female); 4,711 micro and small enterprises; 48,000 beneficiaries of community micro projects; and 21,978 small holder farmers.

The Governor noted that the beneficiaries will cut across the 18 local government areas of the State.

The ONDO-CARES intervention programme is an extension of the NG CARES which is an emergency programme aimed at supporting state-level efforts to respond to and recover from the Covid-19 induced socioeconomic crisis.

Arakunrin Akeredolu said the NG-CARES is a two-year emergency intervention designed by the World Bank in collaboration with the Nigeria Governor’s Forum to support states in Nigeria to restore the livelihood of poor and vulnerable households and stabilise Micro and Small Enterprises affected by the pandemic.

Governor Akeredolu explained that the Sunshine state brought into the Nigeria COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (NG-CARES) Programme in its quest to tackle the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic head-on.

He stressed that the launch is a clear demonstration of the readiness and commitment of his administration to the implementation of the Ondo-CARES programme.

‘’At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Government put in place several measures aimed at tackling the menace and cushioning its effect on our people. This involved setting up of an Inter-ministerial Committee on COVID-19 and a committee on the distribution of palliatives to the people.

‘’Also the Infectious Disease Centres were strengthened across the State with special allowances paid to our frontline health workers to motivate them in responding to the challenge. All these efforts, among others, went a long way in stemming the scourge and alleviating its effects on our people.

‘’Similarly, in a bid to generate employment for our teeming youths and abate social unrest in the State, we set up an indigenous entrepreneurial development agency known as Ondo State Entrepreneurship Agency (ONDEA). I am delighted to inform you that since its establishment, the agency has successfully profiled a number of unemployed graduates and youths based on their skills and technical capabilities,’’ Governor Akeredolu noted.

He stressed that the intervention programme is performance-based, adding that it is result-oriented programme which requires the State to work and achieve the expected results with its own resources and by verified by Independent Verification Agent (IVA) before reimbursement to the State.

‘’I, therefore, charge the State CARES Steering Committee and all stakeholders that all hands must be on deck to achieve the agreed results within the stipulated period.

‘’In order to guide against failure, the State will deploy all its internal monitoring apparatus towards ensuring the successful implementation of this programme. Accordingly, we have set up a monitoring agency known as Performance and Project Implementation of all developmental initiatives in the State and provide feedback for timely and informed decision making,’’ he said.

The Governor formally commenced and launched the ONDO-CARES programme by distributing cheques and packages to verified beneficiaries, communities and farmers, under the State Community and Social Development Agency and Fadama respectively.

In their respective goodwill messages, Chairman Federal-CARES Technical Committee, Mr. Aso Vakporaye and the Task Leader NG CARES, Professor Foluso Okunmadewa lauded the demonstrated capacities of officials of ONDO-CARES and more importantly the commitment of the State Government to the initiative through the provision of additional funding to the $20million which will come to each state of the federation in tranches.

The officials insisted that the programme was initiated primarily to support the vulnerable as a way to kick out poverty occasioned by COVID-19.

Apart from the cheques for the first tranche of fund for the communities to commence their projects as contained in the approved Community Development Plan (CDP), the benefitting farmers were given various agricultural inputs and assets.

The event was attended by royal fathers and religious leaders among other dignitaries.

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