Tribune Staff Reporter
HUNDREDS of unemployed workers flocked to the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium yesterday, queuing in long lines to collect assistance cheques from the National Insurance Board after weeks of waiting to receive payouts.
This comes after NIB Minister Brensil Rolle recently told a local news station that thousands of NIB benefit checks were at the NIB site, awaiting collection.
Despite COVID-19 protocols, when The Tribune arrived at stadium yesterday, scores of people were huddled around the building's entrance in several separate groups.
Others stood in long lines behind the stadium's gate, waiting to receive the long-awaited assistance.
"I was here from 6.15 this morning and I was some of the first," said Anthony Poitier, 56, yesterday. "I get a text from somebody and they showed me my name on a list to come to Thomas A Robinson Stadium. It was roughly about 150 people before me (when I arrived) now it's about 600 to 700 (people)."
Mr Poitier, who is self-employed, told this newspaper that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has yet to receive any unemployment payments from NIB.
The situation, he said, has forced him to rely on family members for financial assistance.
Mr Poitier said he was hoping to collect the much-needed money after seeing his name on a recent NIB list, but was shocked when workers there told him the cheque was not ready.
He said: "From March, I ain't receive assistance because I didn't know where to go. I was waiting for it to come on my phone. My son's them work the same place from me. They been getting their own on their phone and then they go to Sun cash."
"But, ain't none never come to my phone. So, when I investigate to National Insurance in July, a lady from national insurance tell me my name on the list at Thomas A Robinson so this my first time coming to collect so I'm hoping I meet cheques here."
He added: "My son was getting it and he was lending me 20 (dollars) and my daughter was lending me because everybody was getting it except me. I was burrowing from them and I was eating off them and I'm hoping I could repay them back."
"I done pay all kind of national insurance. I don't know why they ain't paid me yet."
Many others voiced their frustration over why their unemployment cheques were not ready despite claiming their names were on NIB's lists on social media.
One agitated local, who only wanted to be identified as Miss Elizabeth, told The Tribune she has spent better part of the past two weeks chasing NIB to receive the unemployment benefits, but to no avail.
"I haven't gotten anything for four months," she angrily said. "I have a print off stating from NIB that they sent the funds to my job from April 7 and when I contacted Atlantis, they said they sent it back to NIB and I was up and down from then."
"I've been on this line from 7.15 this morning and the lady said they have to give me a call because there still isn't nothing at all (for me). For the past two weeks, I was going to the main headquarters for them to investigate and… they gave me a print off one day and said 'this is what they paid me for the first two months' but, I haven't received it yet."
Asked yesterday about her ability to manage during the lockdown, she replied: " I am able to manage because in the situation, we have to trust God. I don't have no income coming in, but I can tell you that not one night I went to bed hungry."
Other complaints also included long wait times and a lack of organisation concerning the entire process.
"Everyone filled out forms with a bank account number on it," said another local, who wanted to remain anonymous. "When it was filled out, it was the impression that they could wire the money into the account and that isn't happening. Why can't those persons be notified via email instead of coming here to collect and that's if you're lucky,".
"You have not much officer to even organise the line. You have people walking and going into the front of the name instead of going to the back."
Some took issue with the lack of consideration given to the elderly and disabled who were standing in lines with temperatures soaring to nearly 90 degrees. "I is a man just come off surgery and I'm a dialysis patient. I been to try see if they could assist me but the gentleman say 'ain't nobody could come to see me and I can't be out here much longer," said another Bahamian, who did not want to be named.
Calls to Mr Rolle and other NIB officials on the matter went unanswered up to press time.