MONROVIA, Montserrado â€“ Members of the Legislature have unanimously endorsed the state of emergency declared by President George Weah, even extending the duration to 60 days.
In a joint resolution, the legislatureÂ modified and approved Weahâ€™s declaration from its effective date of April 10. According to the resolution, the president may terminate the state of emergency at any time within 60 days if the conditions which created the need is no longer present.
The resolution approved all restrictions imposed by the president on the movement of persons. However, lawmakers mandated that all persons appearing in public streets and buildings must wear a protective device that covers at least their noses and mouths.
The legislature also approved the initial request of US$25 million the president had requested for a Food Support Program. However, unlike the presidentâ€™s request which requested the amount to be spent only on the four counties which have recorded confirmed cases, lawmakers directed the funds be used on all 15 counties, prioritizing the poor, vulnerable populations, and first responders.
The same extension was done for the presidentâ€™s request for an electricity and water support program. Lawmakers insisted that counties not connected to the Liberia Electricity Corporation grid, originating in Montserrado, must still be covered with free utilities. Those counties, including Nimba, Grand Gedeh, and Maryland, receive power from neighboring Ivory Coast. Lawmakers also specified that the water support program should cover municipal water programs in all counties where they are being currently implemented.
The resolution also approvedÂ the presidentâ€™s request to provide relief for market women and petty traders who obtained loans before JanuaryÂ 1, 2020. The lawmakers included credit unions in the categories of entities allowed to benefit from the scheme.
The resolution also called for the creation of an emergency relief fund to solicit private donations.
Reading the joint resolution, the secretary of the Liberian Senate, Naborlor Sengbeh, said, â€œA global pandemic has engulfed the world, threatening the lives of millions of people and has already killed thousands.â€
Sengbeh added thatÂ the primary duty of the government is the security and welfare of its citizens.
â€œIn a time like this, our constitutionally required coordination must accrue to the benefit of the Liberia people,â€ the Senate secretary added.
â€œNow, therefore,Â it is hereby resolved by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia, in a Legislative assembly.â€
The motion to endorse the resolution was made by Marylandâ€™s Sen. J. Gblebo Brown. It was unanimously accepted and passed.
Many questions remain, however, as the resolution has not yet been fully costed, including the water and electricity relief programs, hazard pay for health workers, and the loan relief program. However, the legislature is expected to recast the budget shortly. That exercise should include the precise figures for these programs.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah