States may use funds to meet urgent pandemic-related expenses
The Centre has released the first instalment of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to States, in the wake of the second wave of COVID-19 that has claimed thousands of lives since April.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in a statement, said ₹8,873.6 crore had been released to the States, an annual exercise that is usually done in June.
“As a special dispensation, the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, at the recommendation of Ministry of Home Affairs, has released in advance of the normal schedule the first instalment of the Central share of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) for the year 2021-22 to all the States,” the MHA said.
“Normally, the first instalment of SDRF is released in the month of June as per the recommendations of the Finance Commission. However, in relaxation of the normal procedure, not only has the release of SDRF been advanced, the amount has also been released without waiting for the utilization certificate of the amount provided to the States in the last financial year. Up to 50% of the amount released, i.e., ₹4,436.8 crore can be used by the States for COVID-19 containment measures,” it said.
The MHA said the funds from SDRF may be used by the States for expenses such as meeting the cost of oxygen generation and storage plants in hospitals, ventilators, air purifiers, strengthening ambulance services, COVID-19 hospitals, Covid Care Centres, consumables, thermal scanners, personal protective equipment, testing laboratories, testing kits and containment zones, among others.
SDRF is the primary fund available with State governments as part of their response to notified disasters to meet expenditure on providing immediate relief to victims. The Centre contributes 75% of SDRF allocation for general category States and Union Territories and 90% for special category States (Northeast States, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir).
In an order issued on March 14, 2020, the MHA said that it has decided to treat COVID-19 as a “notified disaster” for the purpose of providing assistance under the SDRF.
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