Elma Meika, 21, and her cousin Juliana, 22, have been laid off since March 2020 from the textile factory where they worked in Jatiuwung of Tangerang municipality, Banten. The factory ceased its operations because importing basic materials was hampered by international restrictions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Elma and Juliana have been living off the last salaries they received before they were laid off. However, this amounts to just Rp 2.8 million, and they cannot do much to spread it further. They have already spent the money on food and one month’s rent.
In the end, the pair decided to sell one of their cell phones and exchange the other for a cheaper one. Aside from food and rent, they set aside Rp 1.5 million they made from the sale to purchase a mobile data package so they could apply for the Pre-Employment Card program.
The program was their last hope, as it was impossible for them to receive social assistance because of where they lived. “We registered for the Pre-Employment Card program. Hopefully, if we can get the program’s incentives, we can combine the sum to meet our daily needs,” said Elma, who comes from Palembang, South Sumatra.
Although the cousins were sharing one smart phone between them, they were able to register with the Pre-Employment Card program under two different accounts. They both passed the test for the first batch of program participants, and were the asked to wait a week to be transferred the post-training balance of Rp1 million.
Completing a training program is required to receive the Rp 600,000 monthly relief aid for a period of three months. “But after waiting a week, no balance was transferred following the training. I was even asked to take the test for the next batch. It’s very painful, we are really hoping [for the money] because we need it very badly,” said Elma. Juliana faced the same fate.
The cousins’ failure to receive the aid from the Pre-Employment Card program affected them severely. They used up what cash remained between them. The owner of the house they rented was unwilling to be lenient. They were evicted to lead a miserable existence.
For several days, Elma and Juliana evaded security personnel so they could stay at a shelter run by the Women Farmers Group in Jatiuwung from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. every night. They were eventually caught by security when they couldn’t wake up on time, as they were thoroughly exhausted.
It’s very painful, we are really hoping [for the money] because we need it very badly.
They were suspected of theft and taken to the residence of the RT (neighborhood unit) head. However, the RT head understood their situation and referred them to the Mulya Jaya Social Rehabilitation Center in Pasar Rebo, East Jakarta.
“If we had received the Pre-Employment incentives on time, we wouldn’t have been displaced to stay at a shelter and go hungry,” said Elma.
While her fortunes were still uncertain, Elma refused to give up. A notebook left in the lobby of Mulya Jaya’s Anis Kembang dormitory testifies to her burning spirit to overcome her situation. In it, she wrote about a plan to have her own culinary and garment businesses within the next two years.
Anna Silfia, 43, who lives in Pondok Gede in the West Java city of Bekasi, experienced a similar situation to Elma and Juliana’s. After she was dismissed from her workplace due to the economic impacts of the epidemic, she also tried to register with the Pre-Employment Card program.
“After I was fired and spent all my money, I went to the police to ask for information about where to get government aid, until I was finally taken to this office,” said the former telemarketing employee, her eyes watering at the recollection.
The impacts of the Covid-19 epidemic also left Abdul Rahman, 39, dismissed in March from his job as a marketing agent at a bank. After losing his source of income, Abdul had to move out of the rental house where he lived in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, because he was unable to afford to pay the rent. He has been wandering around the city since mid-May to find a place to stay.
In his confusion, Abdul finally went to a mosque to obtain information about government aid for people who had lost their jobs due to the crisis. Riding his motorcycle, his last asset, Abdul hurried to the Pasar Minggu Sports Building in South Jakarta. At last, he had found temporary shelter there, and also received food aid from the Jakarta provincial administration.
Since he had no money left, Abdul tried to register with the Pre-Employment Card program, hoping to receive the Rp 600,000 monthly aid.
Although he tried to register many times, Abdul was unable to complete the online registration process for the Pre-Employment Card program. Once, the mobile network hanged after the registration webpage appeared; at another time, the web server hanged. “This happened many times. I finally gave up. There might be a great many people registering, or my cell phone could be old,” said Abdul.
Abdul’s cell phone is a local brand that costs around Rp 300,000. He cannot afford to replace it with another phone with better specs, because he is broke. Abdul was driven to despair after his repeated failure to register online with the program.
Many people made jobless as a result of the health and economic crisis found it difficult to access aid through the Pre-Employment Card program. Tohirin, 39, is another such “victim”. In mid-April, he realized he was going to be dismissed from the hotel where he worked, so Tohirin registered with the Pre-Employment Card program. The resident of Bekasi municipality hoped to receive the government aid offered through the program. He tried many times to register, but could not get through. He reached the verification stage for the personal identity card, but then the website crashed.
“The Pre-Employment Card website informs us that if any problems are encountered during registration, we can email customer service for [assistance]. But I’ve repeatedly sent email inquiries [and haven’t received] any response. In the end, I stopped trying,” said Tohirin, clearly disappointed.
The government has allocated Rp 20 trillion for the Pre-Employment Card program, which has a target of 5.6 million participants. Since its launch on 11 April 2020, 680,918 participants have registered. Nonetheless, many people are still suffering the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, including many who have lost their jobs and remain beyond the wreach of this program.