Public Services and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
MINISTER of Public Service and National Insurance Board Brensil Rolle suggested the government could expand its temporary unemployment benefit assistance to include people not in the tourism industry who have been affected by actions taken to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest announced the allocation last week of $10 million to self-employed people in the tourism sector affected by the industry slowdown, saying $200 per week will be given to people like straw vendors and Jet Ski operators.
However, when contacted yesterday, Mr Rolle said jitney drivers have also inquired about getting assistance.
“We told them not to take passengers so they’re coming as well as the straw vendors and others,” he said.
His comment came days after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis mandated that use public transportation until March 31.
NIB Director Dr Nicola Virgill-Rolle explained yesterday that NIB will issue unemployment benefits as it usually does and will also issue payments through the government’s unemployment assistance, a new programme for self-employed people in the tourism sector.
“NIB has an unemployment benefit that’s part of your contribution,” she said. “That benefit is only paid by employed persons, that will be available for persons who have been laid off from work. It is a payment that is equivalent to a percentage of your weekly insurable wage and paid up to 13 weeks. We are working on a special arrangement so employees don’t have to come to NIB to get their money.”
To expedite issuing unemployment benefits, NIB is working with hotels to get lists of laid-off staff.
Mrs Virgill-Rolle said: “The second group are self-employed persons who do not pay for unemployment insurance under the Act so they are not covered for the regular unemployment benefits. It is not an earned benefit they are receiving, it is an assistance provided. If you are working in the tourism sector and directly impacted by COVID-19, there will be a special application process on Thursday to fill out forms to process.”
Mrs Virgill-Rolle said there are over 3,000 people who fit in the self-employed sector of the tourism industry, people like hair braiders, Jet Ski operators and straw vendors.
The hotel sector employs about 13,000 people, she said.