$7 million in 10 weeks to help stranded foreigners
Helping thousands of foreigners stranded here by COVID-19 has cost close to $7 million over the past 10 weeks.
Chilean Constanza Capurso is among the 6100 people assisted through the Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri scheme which supplied her with food vouchers and helped pay rent on her Mt Maunganui flat,
The 29-year-old nurse arrived in New Zealand, just days before the March lockdown began and she is deeply grateful for the financial help.
Her RSE seasonal work visa allows her to stay until January, but with only two or three days work a week in the Kiwifruit industry, covering living costs became impossible.
“Now it is very difficult to get back to my country ... and the tickets are very expensive.”
Under the welfare programme begun on July 1, Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs has provided $3.5m for to cover the cost of accommodation and power bills for those suffering serious financial hardship.
The Red Cross has pitched in with $3.4m for in-kind support such as food, medicines, warm clothing and bedding.
The three top nationalities helped come from Tonga (1226), India (624) and Argentina (441).
The bulk are on work or RSE visas, but also include 1051 on visitor visas, 1056 on student visas, and 42 on temporary visas.
The Red Cross says that anecdotally, there is evidence of extreme hardship or homelessness and it has been in contact with people living in tents, vans or cars.
To be eligible, applicants must show they had no savings, other than those needed to buy a ticket back to their home country, insufficient income to cover basic living costs, and that they were unable to access support from sources such as their family, church groups or embassy.
Those in need can apply online and support is initially for four weeks, but can be extended.
The horticulture industry is experiencing severe shortages of RSE workers due to border restrictions and it’s estimated about 10,000 seasonal workers will be needed from next month to prune and pick $1 billion worth of fruit across Hawke’s Bay.
Capurso says she and two other Chilean friends are prepared to shift to Hawke's Bay if they are unable to find sufficient work in the Bay of Plenty.
She had originally intended to travel to Australian and Thailand but because of the pandemic, she was likely to return home to Chile.