Friday 14 August, 2020

Sports Minister Olivia Grange clarifies Athletes Assistance Programme

Sports Minister Olivia Grange.

Sports Minister Olivia Grange.

Sports Minister Olivia Grange has sought to clarify matters surrounding the Athletes Assistance Programme, a week after some athletes received financial support from the Government.

Minister Grange pointed out in a social media post on Friday that the Athletes Assistance Programme, implemented for the first time in March 2020, was designed to provide financial assistance to national sportsmen and women as they concentrate on final training for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The minister made a public statement on February 9 in which she advised that the Athletes Assistance Programme would commence on March 1, 2020, and continue into mid-July.

She said the programme would benefit athletes who had qualified or were on the brink of qualifying for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Additionally, the minister advised that athletes in the programme would receive $20,000 per week towards their preparation, to be disbursed on a monthly basis.

However, Minister Grange stated in the social media post on Friday that "on the confirmation from the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese Government that the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games had been postponed, the Ministry suspended the programme."

Minister Grange pointed out that "In our news release issued on March 24, 2020, the ministry committed to pay sums under the Athletes Assistance Programme up to the end of March as our athletes put their training programmes on hold.

"All athletes who had begun their training programme up to the time when the programme was suspended received payments in keeping with our commitment."

She further said that "our Paralympians had not yet begun training when the decisions to postpone the Tokyo Games and suspend the Athletes Assistance Programme were taken and were therefore not eligible to receive payment under the programme. This was communicated in a letter to the leadership of the Jamaica Paralympic Association, duly acknowledged by the general secretary.

"The Ministry has continued engagement with sportsmen and women, including Paralympians, who have been adversely affected by COVID-19. We have helped Paralympians to apply for relief under the Government’s CARE programme, under which nine out of 13 Paralympians have been awarded Compassionate Grants."

Additionally, Minister Grange said she will continue to negotiate for special assistance from the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service for the sports sector. An announcement in this regard will be made on Tuesday during Minister Grange's contribution to the Sectoral Debate.

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