Public Services and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government has not yet decided whether it will further extend its COVID-19 support initiatives – including the unemployment benefits programme – beyond the December deadline, according to Public Service Minister Brensil Rolle.
Mr Rolle was asked whether there will be a continuation of the programmes, which are set to end this month.
“We’ve not evaluated that process as yet,” he told reporters. “You are aware the government had extended from June to December. At some point, we will take a look at what’s happening in the country and make the judgment.”
To assist with the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minnis administration in March launched its unemployment benefit programme, among other initiatives, for self-employed people directly connected to the tourism sector and later expanded it to include self-employed people outside of the industry.
The programme was initially extended to July and then to September.
However, recognising that thousands continued to be affected by the pandemic, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced in October that the assistance programmes will continue until December, with an additional $45 million allocated towards those initiatives.
According to Mr Rolle, hundreds of assistance cheques at NIB are still waiting to be collected by beneficiaries.
“There are hundreds of individuals who have not collected their cheques and we’ve advised the public. We have tried to call individuals based on the number contacts that we had and there are a number of persons who have not collected their cheques from the benefits from the board as yet,” he said.
Yesterday, the minister was also asked about the possibility of National Insurance Board contribution rates increasing next year due to the financial losses experienced by the agency amid the health crisis.
However, Mr Rolle refrained from giving a direct answer, only telling reporters he wanted them to spread the word to the Bahamian people about the importance of making NIB payments.
He said yesterday: “I told you before, I’d be interested in you taking the lead in this process and you informing and educating the public as to what is required for you to have a very good understanding of the fact that NIB had to spend $150 million that was not budgeted this year and that monies and the board must somehow be there for you and me.
“So, if you lead the way and you use your platform and your great influence to educate the public and tell them about the importance of NIB then certainly there may be some consideration.”