NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government has extended its COVID-19 unemployment assistance program to July 1.
National Insurance Board Director Dr Nicola Virgill-Rolle revealed today barbers and beauticians are now also eligible for the assistance.
Virgill-Rolle was addressing reporters via a Zoom video conference.
She noted that under the program over 6,000 persons have received assistance at a cost of $7.3 million.
The government announced the initiative in mid-March with an allocation of $10 million. The program offers a sponsored unemployment assistance of $200 per week, for up to eight weeks.
“The government has asked us to continue the program for tourism related, self employed persons to July 1, 2020,” Virgill-Rolle said.
“That was originally an eight weeks program and now has been extended to July 1. The government has also advised us of a policy change with respect to the treatment of barbers and beauticians. Previously all self employed persons other than those employed in the tourism sector were required to have businesses licenses. However, we recognized that there were special challenges with respect to barbers and beauticians who lease chairs in a regulated establishment and so they may not have had a business license on their own.”
She continued: “NIB is now accepting unemployment assistance applications from barbers and beauticians even if they do not have a business license in their own name. They must be registered with NIB, provide a signed letter from the principal of the barber shop or beauty salon attesting that they have leased a full- time chair over three months prior to April 2020. They should also provide Instagram or Facebook links or photos evidencing that they had performed this work and all of the other relevant materials.”
NIB will now also be offering services at the National Stadium, Virgill-Rolle said.
As to NIB’s unemployment benefit, she said: “NIB has paid or has cheques for 30,679 people at a total cost of $33.9 million. We continue to use every tool in our tool kit in order to pay as many people as quickly as possible. We estimate that we have about just under 5,000 people left to be adjudicated. Of course not all of those will be approved because of not meeting all the requirements.
“We are in the process of paying out some 3,000 new persons this week. We have added to our numbers so far which we have processed over the past few days. We have just under 5,000 that we need to go through. Some of those we have to insure that contributions are in place even if they have to be posted or we still have to make contact with employers.”
She said: “We continue to get new applications daily. We are moving quickly through the ones that are clear and have all the necessary contributions as quickly as possible and those which require further review our officers in the contributions department or compliance department are reviewing those.”
Virgill-Rolle acknowledged that there have been delays in unemployment benefit payments.
“What we require for payment is for a claimant to meet the eligibility requirements,” she said.
“You have 52 contributions overall and you have seven contributions in the last 13 weeks since you were let go, and 13 contributions in the last 26 weeks.”
Virgill-Rolle said: “What we found was that we need to have the contribution statements or C10 statements as of March for most people. We needed to have March, February and January contribution statements. Where those were not in place or not posted we had to review them in a special queue and so there was delay. Even if those have not been paid, so long as they have been received by us we have been processing claims.
“We only needed to know that you legitimately worked some where and this was your insurable wage and those documents help us to determine that. We have had a number of employers who have batched paid, meaning they may have been arrears and paid several months at the same time. We had to go through those and post those which resulted in delays.”
Virgill-Rolle said the fund currently stands at $1.7 billion, and has enough money to cover its benefit payments.