More than a third of Cook Islands residents stranded in New Zealand have applied for financial assistance handed out by the government.
Elizabeth Wright-Koteka, the Cook Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand, said there were 310 people registered as stranded. More than 120 have applied for assistance.
The number includes families and groups travelling together.
Not all applicants are eligible, she said. The High Commission was still processing applications, and the payments were supposed to begin last week.
She said it was too early to say how much would be paid out but reiterated that all who are eligible will receive assistance.
Cook Islands Government announced last week residents stranded in New Zealand could claim up to $650 a week in financial support. But they must meet tight criteria to get the accommodation, welfare and medical assistance.
The government will provide up to $400 a person, each week, to contribute towards accommodation costs for impacted Cook Islands residents through New Zealand’s four-week self-quarantine period.
Then there will be weekly welfare assistance of up to $250 a person to help with essential needs like food, transport, clothing and medicine.
Wright-Koteka said the rallying of the Cook Islands community in New Zealand had been extraordinary.
“Whilst our stranded Cook Islanders are understandably frustrated and wanting to get home, they’ve maintained extremely positive spirits and have been very patient with us.”
They were fortunate to have the “invaluable” assistance of Pacific Homecare Trust, she said, to disperse the payments. They were able to use their expertise and network, given there were Cook Islanders sheltering in places the length of New Zealand.
The Trust had been assisting with welfare checks and ensuring people had access to the basic necessities, including shelter, food and any medical requirements.
Pasifika Futures were also providing support packages to Pacific families impacted by Covid-19.
These packages were intended to help families meet the costs of basic necessities.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is providing assistance in sourcing temporary accommodation for visitors stranded in New Zealand.