Michael Weeks, Minister of Social Development & Sports

Seven months after his appointment, the minister with responsibility for government’s million-dollar-a-week Financial Assistance (FA) programme has disclosed that Bermuda’s biggest grocery store chain was paid $12M taxpayer dollars, exclusively in guaranteed income with no constraints on what they charge

you for food.

In another exclusive news series, Bermuda Real sat down with Minister Michael Weeks, who replaced MP Zane DeSilva, following his resignation, shortly after the appointment of the Working Group on FA Reform.

In part one of this series, Mr Weeks disclosed that since April 2001, when “The MarketPlace partnered with Financial Assistance and Lindo’s Family Foods since February 2018”, the Department of Financial Assistance (DFA) “spent approximately $4M at The MarketPlace on groceries for clients during each of the fiscal years 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18”.

“DFA spent just over $2M on groceries for clients at The MarketPlace from April 2018 to present,” said Minister Weeks. 

“DFA spent approximately $300K at Lindo’s Family Foods on groceries for clients from April 2018 to present.”

Asked “if any interest has been expressed by other grocery store outlets, or whether or the government would take a look at spreading the public purse further across the board”, the Minister confirmed that to date, as far as he was aware, no one has asked to get on board.

“No other vendors have asked to participate in our food programme,” said Mr Weeks. 

“Further, there have been no formal queries from clients to suggest that they require additional options.”

Now that the first-ever set of recommendations by the new FA Reform Working Group’s report is due in November, he said: “The Ministry is considering how best to expand the choices that FA clients have.

“Recognizing that some grocery stores are more expensive than others,” he said.

“DFA may actively seek to determine whether there is any interest on the part of other grocery stores.”

To be clear, Bermuda Real asked: “Shouldn’t it be that the POLICY should be changed to be automatically open to say HUNTS and others NOT JUST The MarketPlace where FA clients have the option of shopping at Price Rite?”