During his wrap up to the 2020/2021 budget debate, Minnis said: “In our islands thousands of Bahamians have either been temporarily laid off, furloughed or terminated as a result of the necessary lock downs and physical measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“This means that thousands are now without income , even though they still have families to feed and people to take care of. Hence my governments made it a fundamental priority to put cash in the hands of displaced Bahamians through social unemployment assistance programs.”
He continued: “This initiative comports with our third pillar which is about extending and expanding existing policies geared toward sustaining employment. We are providing district assistance to self employed individuals who have been unable to support themselves by providing temporary income replacement over the next several months.
“As we reopen in phases, this income replacement will provide bridge support to these individuals to begin to get back on their feet.”
Dr Minnis noted that a special allocation has been placed in the Ministry of Finance to be able to extend the unemployment assistance to individuals once their NIB payments conclude at 13 weeks.
“The benefit will extend from 13 weeks to 26 weeks. My government has budgeted over $40 million to provide a special allowance for those still unemployed when their NIB unemployment assistance ends,” he said.
Minnis also lauded the many employers whom he said should be commended for going above and beyond to continue salary payments and other forms of support to employees even as businesses were shuttered and employees had no work.
“We know it is not easy to maintain payroll to sustain commercial rent payments for mortgages and other operating expenses with no income,” he said.
“That is why my government is doing ongoing payroll support through its tax credit and deferral program. As the economy opens the program will allow businesses to hold onto the cash they have earmarked to settle tax obligations. Businesses can redirect the money from the tax credits and deferrals to pay non executive staff payroll.”