LA PAZ – Elderly people, the group most susceptible to complications from COVID-19, formed long lines at Bolivian banks on Friday to receive cash payments intended to mitigate people’s financial difficulties amid a nationwide quarantine.
On the first day of this aid disbursement many senior citizens began waiting at dawn to collect their Renta Dignidad (Dignity Pension), a monthly payment to people 60 years and older, and also a new “family basket” payout that Bolivia’s interim government is providing to help the most vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis.
Although the caretaker government says a family member of an elderly person can collect the payments by presenting that individual’s identification, most of the people waiting in line were seniors.
Many of them used masks and gloves and tried to maintain social distancing, but that was difficult to do with so many people lining up to collect their payments.
“I’ve been waiting for 40 minutes,” Julio Peña told EFE while waiting at a bank branch in La Paz.
He said more tellers should be assisting customers so wait times can be reduced, while also calling for improved electronic payment services that obviate the need for people to go in person to the bank.
The family basket payment, which can be collected over a period of 90 days, will benefit more than 1 million people and consists of a 400-boliviano ($58) cash payout to elderly people who only receive the Renta Dignidad, pregnant women who are recipients of the so-called “Juana Azurduy” grant (a mother-and-child grant paid out until the child turns two) and people with disabilities.
The interim government also called for better compliance with a system whereby people are allowed to leave their homes to collect payments from banks and shop for groceries based on the last digit of their identity card number.
State-controlled lender Banco Union is distributing the coronavirus relief payment at all of its branches nationwide, while some 51 private banks also are providing this service, according to the Association of Private Banks of Bolivia.
Banco Union said in a statement that tellers will first attend to elderly recipients of the family basket payment, followed by the other beneficiaries.
Bolivia has registered 132 confirmed coronavirus cases and nine COVID-19-related deaths, according to the Health Ministry’s most recent figures.
The steps taken by Bolivia’s interim government to combat the pandemic include declaring a health emergency, establishing a nationwide quarantine, closing the nation’s border and imposing domestic travel restrictions.