Public Services and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle.
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
AFTER a delay in the disbursement of unemployment benefits from the National Insurance Board, Minister for National Insurance Brensil Rolle confirmed to The Tribune that funds are now available and payments are being made.
Last week, some recipients of the unemployment benefit took to social media complaining about late payments. Yesterday morning, Island Pay, a company engaged by NIB to pay some of its customers, posted the following message on its Facebook page:
“Dear valued customers, we truly understand that you are anxiously awaiting funds from the Government Unemployment Extension Programme. At this point, we have not yet received the funds for disbursement. As soon as funds are received, our team is on standby to process and disburse them to you immediately.”
The Tribune contacted Mr Rolle who said the money would be paid out.
Mr Rolle said: “The issue has been solved. The government’s assistance was a little bit late. NIB got the funding today and payouts will be made immediately. These are assistance payments for people who are self-employed, the people who didn’t make any contribution. Not the individuals who have contributed to NIB. These are persons who have received assistance since March of last year.”
At the onset of the pandemic, when the country’s tourism-based economy came to a halt, the government covered people who were self-employed in the tourism industry. The government also gave assistance to those who were unemployed due to the pandemic, but never made any contributions to NIB. NIB received the funding for those categories of people from the government, so as not to stress its already stretched funds.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced last year that the unemployment benefit for these people, whose employment was affected by the introduction of the COVID-19 virus, would be reassessed in January of this year. Mr Rolle was asked about the cut-off date and he said he is not sure the payments will be continued after this month.
Mr Rolle continued: “The government has determined that when it did another assessment January was to be that date. January was the cut-off date given to us at NIB. The end of this month. The government would have spent nearly $100m of the public’s money on this project.
“So, once we have wrapped down this system, we have to cover all those persons to make sure they get the additional 13 weeks that the government has offered. So the payments were a bit late. We have acknowledged that and we have run the cheques and individuals will now get their cheques or we will make the deposits.”