BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) has seen an uptick in welfare applications since a second wave of COVID infections hit Brunei three months ago.

With many locals retrenched or furloughed due to the economic impact of a partial lockdown, MCYS said it has received 4,893 applications for welfare assistance since August.

“This is a high number,” MCYS minister YB Dato Hj Aminuddin Ihsan Hj Abidin said on Tuesday. “On average, this is 48 applications per day.”

“But we need to remember that some of these applications are recurring applicants. But we can see that from August, the trend has increased,” he told reporters during a COVID press briefing.

As well as disbursing monthly financial aid to needy families, MCYS is also responsible for giving out disability allowances and elderly pensions through its Community Development Department.

In July last year, the ministry moved the application process online via the National Welfare System (SKN) website, a centralised database created to streamline the process and avoid duplication of benefits.

Since it was launched, SKN has received a total of 20,553 applications for financial assistance.

According to the minister, 53 percent of applications were directed to the Community Development Department, while 47 percent of applications were directed to the Brunei Islamic Religious Council, which also gives out financial aid to those experiencing poverty.

Lat month the government also announced additional COVID relief measures for retrenched and furloughed workers, providing a $250 monthly stipend to help them weather the financial impact of the second wave.

Applicants would also need to apply through the SKN portal.

Typically it would take three months for an application to be reviewed, said YB Dato Hj Aminuddin, but the ministry has managed to reduce processing time to two months.

“In last six months we’ve managed to improved the [processing time] to around 60 days … We are working as hard as possible to follow the Client’s Charter to complete these applications within two months.”