COVID-19 relief package will “bridge the gap”, says Chamber confederation

COVID-19 relief package will “bridge the gap”, says Chamber confederation
The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce logo.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) believes the initial fiscal measures introduced by the government to support the Bahamian workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic will assist in “bridging the gap”.

BCCEC chairman Khrystle Rutherford-Ferguson said relief measures will help maintain levels of cash flow payrolls for as long as possible despite revenue loss.

“The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employer’s Confederation (BCCEC) acknowledges the measures taken by the Government to provide support to the workforce and small businesses, as it diligently seeks to contain the spread of COVID- 19, Rutherford-Ferguson said.

“We also acknowledge that at this stage, benefits are focused on ensuring that self employed persons and employees who must self-isolate or must be quarantined can do so without having to choose between their health and the health of others amidst the pressures associated with earning a wage.

“We appreciate that the Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Finance, in his presentation, stated that these measures are considered as Phase One, recognizing that additional measures will likely have to be implemented. ”

Rutherford-Ferguson said that during this initial stage, the BCCEC must assess its membership to determine those who will benefit from the initial measures introduced by the government “and those that may have been inadvertently left out due to the size or type of enterprise that they operate”.

“This comes at a time when employers must balance the choice between losses to its businesses and losses to its employees,” she said.

“The fiscal measures announced will assist in bridging the gap between maintaining minimum levels of cash flow and maintaining payrolls for as long as possible notwithstanding the loss in revenues.

“The business community recognizes that critical to weathering these challenging times, is the ability to manage its costs and provide support to its employees,” said Rutherford-Ferguson.

The BCCEC chairman noted that the organization was invited to collaborate with Government on developing strategies that will assist all businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We look forward to further collaborating with the Government of The Bahamas to determine the most appropriate levers available to mitigate against the economic impact of COVID-19 given the fiscal constraints.”

Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest announced last week that  in addition to the nearly $5 million already earmarked for healthcare response to the COVID- 19 virus, the government is  allocating up to an additional $11 million to cover detection, isolation, treatment and other COVID-19 mitigation activities.

The government is also setting aside $4 million to provide food assistance and social support for displaced workers directly impacted by the virus, through the Ministry of Social Services.

The government is allocating $10 million to provide for a temporary unemployment benefit, administered through the National Insurance Board, for self-employed persons working in the tourism industry.

Among other measures being introduced is a $20 million in short term loan support to Bahamian small businesses impacted by the current COVID-19 pandemic.