Over $ 90 million in direct cash assistance disbursed through government-subsidized unemployment assistance

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Eligibility criteria applied for access. However, the government provides other social supports to those ineligible

The finance ministry wants to clarify the public discourse regarding payments to the government extended unemployment benefit program based on inaccurate suggestions that the payments were unfairly withheld for some people.

The government has provided some $ 90 million in direct cash and income replacement assistance to nearly 38,000 unemployed Bahamians since March. These funds were administered by the National Insurance Board on behalf of the government to eligible individuals. This $ 90 million does not include amounts paid by NIB as part of its 13-week unemployment benefits which are funded by employer and employee contributions to NIB. Although some of the unemployed were unable to access the government-subsidized program, the government has taken a comprehensive approach to COVID-19 assistance, including feeding programs, rent assistance and other forms of assistance. social support.

The government remains extremely grateful to all of the employers across the country who provided ex gratia payments to employees during this time, as well as to the many employers who had full or part time employees throughout the period. pandemic, even though the companies themselves face extreme business challenges.

For the avoidance of doubt, here is an overview of the government’s extended unemployment benefit program:

  1. To date, since March, people have obtained direct and earned unemployment benefits from the National Insurance Board (NIB) for a total of $ 97.5 million. These are amounts paid by the NIB for up to 13 weeks and represent the accrued benefits that are part of the NIB benefit schedule.
  2. From April, in recognition of the severe economic disruption caused by the pandemic, the government introduced a special unemployment benefit program to help people who were not eligible for NIB benefits.
  3. From July, recognizing that the 13-week period of vested benefits was drawing to a close, the government extended the special unemployment benefits program to tens of thousands of Bahamians who remained unemployed due to the pandemic. . Initially approved to provide support to these people for an additional three months, this extended initiative would have taken most people until the end of September.
  4. The special unemployment benefit program was administered by the NIB but funded by the government from budgeted funds approved by Parliament in the recent fiscal year. By the end of November, some 36,959 people had benefited from the special unemployment benefit program for a total amount of just over $ 91.9 million since the start of the previous fiscal year.

In October, the government acknowledged that many Bahamians were still unemployed as a number of major employers remained closed due to ongoing restrictions caused by the pandemic.

Despite the fact that the budget for this unemployment assistance had been largely exhausted and government revenues continued to be very limited, the government recognized the need to provide additional assistance to people given the gravity of the circumstances. The government then extended the program at the time until December, adjusting the weekly amount and eligibility criteria.

With limited resources available, the government took the policy stance that people on the special unemployment benefit program would receive income or income support of at least $ 100 per week. The difference in this iteration is that people who work part-time or receive ex gratia or other payments from the employer would only receive payments from the program to bring them to a minimum of $ 100 in income and / or support. of income.

This approach was taken to ensure that in an environment of limited public resources, as many people as possible would get some help.

As the Prime Minister announced last Sunday, the program has since been extended until the end of January 2021.

To verify amounts owed to employees under this revised approach, the government normally required employers to submit relevant information to the NIB. The NIB would only withhold payments until such information was provided by the employers.

The NIB informed the government that the last major employer submitted its list of eligible employees last night (Tuesday, December 8, 2020). This will enable the relevant payments to be made to employees who meet the most recent conditions mentioned above.

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