Govt. announces $200 weekly payments for eligible self-employed

Govt. announces $200 weekly payments for eligible self-employed
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest

Unemployment assistance expanded to self employed persons outside of tourism sector

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K Peter Turnquest has announced the expansion of the unemployment assistance programme for self-employed persons outside of the tourism sector.

“Given the aggressive actions taken by the Government in the interest of public safety, these self-employed persons, outside of the tourism trade, are also facing the complete loss of income and the challenge of meeting their financial obligations,” Turnquest said.

“They too will receive a benefit payment of $200 per weeks for the length of the quarantine period which at present will go at least until April 8,” said Turnquest.

Eligible individuals must have a valid business license issued by the Department of Inland Revenue; and they must have no additional employees.

A sole proprietor with employees can apply for the government’s Small Business Continuity Loan programme.

Self-employed people must have and provide a copy of their National Insurance Board Card or other government ID with their NIB number.

They must not be in full time employment and thus eligible for other NIB employment benefit, and be able to demonstrate active income from their related business in either January or February 2020.

This could for example be in the form of a copy of a bank statement showing business related inflow for the month, according to Turnquest, who said this provision is to ensure that only persons with active businesses obtain consideration.

Individuals must either be registered as self-employed with NIB or become registered at application for this benefit.

The initial relief program covered sole proprietors and agents without employees who earn most of their income in the tourism sector.

“Tourism workers such as straw vendors, hair braiders, taxi drivers and jet ski operators will be able to benefit from this assistance,” Turnquest said.

“These groups of workers, who are on the front line of our tourism industry, are highly vulnerable to the economic fall-out from COVID-19, given its devastating impact on global tourism.”

He added: “Self-employed persons do not pay for and are therefore not covered by the unemployment benefit programmes of the National Insurance Board. This is not an uncommon practice for social security programmes, as it is often difficult to determine when a self-employed person is genuinely unemployed due to forces beyond their control.

“A national crisis, such as the pandemic before us today where, due to forces entirely beyond their control, thousands of self-employed people who rely on the flow of cruise ship and stopover visitors, are now unable to make a living over the next few weeks.”

Turnquest noted that the Government has partnered with NIB to design a temporary programme that will provide weekly payments of $200 to persons who meet the eligibility criteria, for a period of up to eight weeks. That is, an eligible person can receive up to $1,600 over the 8-week period.

NIB launched its new online application process for the Government Funded Unemployment Assistance for COVID-19 on March 26.

The portal enables applicants to apply online and to submit the necessary documents via email to prove their identity and that they work in the tourism sector as a self-employed person.

To date, NIB has received 1,563 applications, he said.