BY DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
While the tourism sector and related businesses on Grand Bahama have been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson is commending industrial companies who have kept their workers employed during this time.
He is encouraging other businesses who can also keep their employees working from home to do so.
“We reiterate the message put forth by the Prime Minister that we don’t want employers to be unnecessarily laying off workers. And in GB, those businesses that can keep on employees we implore them to keep them employed,” he said.
Mr Thompson noted Grand Bahama’s tourism sector has been significantly impacted.
“We have seen in the tourism sector, unfortunately, most of the hotels are closed as a result of not having any tourists, and those businesses that are related to tourism don’t have any business, so they have been affected significantly,” he said.
Minister Thompson noted the shutdown has also impacted businesses that are not being able to operate at this time in GB and other places in The Bahamas.
As a result of this, he stated the government has taken a proactive approach by implementing the new Social Services assistance and the National Insurance programmes to help those Bahamians who are affected.
He indicated a special programme has also been put in place at National Insurance for those who are self-employed.
“I am pleased that GB has been able to benefit from those programmes. But, one unique thing about GB is that we have large industrial companies that do business here and they have a significant amount of employees and, except a few, most have been able to keep their employees.
“We commend those businesses that have been able to do that… as there are circumstances in the industrial community they have for the most part been able to have employees work from home and keep most their employees on work,” he said.
In terms of government offices, Mr Thompson noted some services are open to the public, including the Registrar General’s Office, concerning new births for persons requiring birth certificates.
The Treasury Department is also open on Monday and Thursday from 10am to 2pm processing of Social Services cheques, vendor payments, weekly salaries, etc.
Minister Thompson stated the VAT Department on the ground floor of the Harold DeGregory Complex is also open, but on a very limited basis accepting only document drop off for stamping of Conveyances and Mortgages documents, permits and affidavits from 9am to 12 noon.
He said individuals would be contacted once documents are ready for pick up.
The Road Traffic is also open since Monday. Deputy Comptroller of Road Traffic Welbourne Bootle said that they have been able to process some 200 applicants on the first day. The office is open from 9am to 12noon, and the department is utilizing an appointment system for those who are not processed by noon to return the following day.
“The process is going very smoothly,” Mr Bootle reported.