MINISTRY OF FINANCE

~GUIDLINES TO OBTAIN COVID-19

SOCIAL & ECONOMIC BENEFITS~

This document outlays the information to access COVID-19 Social and Economic Benefits. We invite you to review and share to educate yourselves and others about the measures the Government has put in place to assist.

SEE THE KEY ELEMENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT'S PHASE ONE POLICY RESPONSE TO THE ECONOMIC FALLOUT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC! March 18th, 2020

~ No additional borrowings anticipated at this time.

Excerpt from the DPM Statement to the House of Assembly, March 17, 2020.

1. The Minister of Health will expound on the health-related efforts to detect, contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, in addition to the nearly $5 million we have already earmarked for healthcare response, we are allocating up to an additional $11 million to cover detection, isolation, treatment and other COVID-19 mitigation activities.

2. We are setting aside $4 million to provide food assistance and social support for displaced workers directly impacted by the virus, through the Ministry of Social Services. These food assistance vouchers, of $100 every second week will be targeted primarily to persons within the hospitality industry who are facing reduced workweeks. This allocation will allow for up to eight weeks of benefit payments but may be adjusted according to need.

3. The Government is allocating $10 million to provide for a temporary unemployment benefit, administered through the National Insurance Board, for self-employed persons working in the tourism industry. Self-employed persons, such as straw vendors, tour operators, Jet Ski operators, do not ordinarily qualify for the National Insurance unemployment benefit as part of their benefits package. However, the Government is making a special accommodation for those self-employed individuals in the tourism industry, given the unprecedented COVID-19 impact.

For persons in this category, the Government will offer a sponsored unemployment assistance of $200 per week, for up to eight weeks. To qualify, these self-employed persons must be currently registered with NIB or they must register at the time of application for this benefit. The time frame for this benefit may be adjusted according to need.

4. Under the normal provisions of the NIB insurance scheme, individuals who contract COVID-19 or are quarantined because of exposure or suspected exposure will be eligible for sickness benefits. And, individuals who are temporarily laid off because of the economic impacts of COVID-19 will be eligible for unemployment benefits, up to the regular thirteen-week period, if necessary. NIB published information on this yesterday to remind persons of these benefits already available to them under the NIB programme. The government encourages all persons who are eligible to contact NIB.

5. The Government has requested that Water and Sewerage reconnect all recently disconnected services for residential customers to ensure that personal hygiene is not compromised. Further, the government is also directing both Water & Sewerage and BPL to defer payment of bills - for an initial period of three months for residential customers who are diagnosed with the virus, who are in quarantine or have been laid off. I must stress that this allowance is for this specific group of persons and that it is important that these impacted persons contact BPL and Water & Sewerage to register for this benefit and verify their situation as necessary.

6. The Ministry has included the Clearing Banks Association in our consultation on the proposed mitigating measures to address the current situation. The banks have reiterated to me their commitment to helping their clients through challenging times. They have advised that if persons are experiencing financial difficulties during this period, that they should contact their banks to understand the options that are available to them, such as payment deferrals, credit limit increases, or other measures to offer temporary relief. As this issue progresses, the banks have stated their intent to offer more tailored products and services to persons who financially are negatively impacted by the economic effects of COVID-19. The banks have however stressed that for now, it is important that clients who - because of their changing circumstances - find themselves in financial duress, that these customers should go in before they fall into arrears so that their specific situation can be assessed and addressed within the range of the banks' available tools.

7. Further, the government is committing $20 million in short term loan support to Bahamian small businesses impacted by the current COVID-19 situation. This allocation is to be funded in part by utilization of an additional $10 million of the extinguished dormant accounts fund held by the Central Bank. Eligibility would include confirming that the business has been in existence for over 1 year, a commitment to retain most of the existing staff complement, and a plan to utilize the proceeds of the loan to ensure business continuity.

8. Under the Accelerate the Youth Apprenticeship Programme, we will expand and accelerate training opportunities in the construction trade to support rebuilding efforts in Grand Bahama.

9. The Ministry of Works will reprioritize capital projects to increase the number of quickly deployable small-scale capital works to boost small business activity.

10. The Government will accelerate the approvals process for all domestic and foreign capital investment projects currently in the pipeline.

11. We will restrict all non-essential expenses including but not limited to travel, and the scale down or postponement of planned events.

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