Govt. in talks with banks over COVID-19 assistance

Govt. in talks with banks over COVID-19 assistance
PM Dr Hubert Minnis

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Government will ‘immediately’ enter into discussions with the Central Bank and the banking sector as to how they may assist Bahamians affected by COVID-19, according to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

Minnis made the revelation during his national address to announce additional measures that expand emergency powers regulations introduced last week to prevent the local spread of COVID-19.

Minnis said: “We will let you know the outcome of these discussions. I also wish to reemphasize what the Minister of Finance stated last week. The banks have reiterated their commitment to helping their clients through challenging times.

He added, “They have advised that if individuals are experiencing financial difficulties during this period, that they should contact their banks to understand the options that are available to them, such as payment deferrals, credit limit increases, or other measures to offer temporary relief.

“As this issue progresses, the banks have stated their intent to offer more tailored products and services to persons who financially are negatively impacted by the economic effects of COVID-19.”

As also stated by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance K Peter Turnquest last week, the government is committing $20 million in short term loans support to Bahamian small businesses impacted by the current COVID-19 situation.

“Eligibility would include confirming that the business has been in existence for over year, a commitment to retain most of the existing staff complement, and a plan to utilize the proceeds of the loan to ensure business continuity,” said Dr Minnis.

The Prime Minister also noted that  National Insurance Board (NIB) will be encouraged to engage hotel owners about the possibility of advancing NIB unemployment benefits on behalf of the Government. ”This would reduce the numbers having to physically go to NIB to collect payments,” said Dr Minnis, who noted that hotel companies will be reimbursed by the government.

Speaking to other measures to be undertaken by the government Dr Minnis said, “Under the Accelerate Youth Apprenticeship Programme, we will expand and accelerate training opportunities in the construction trade to support rebuilding efforts in Grand Bahama.”

He further noted, “The Ministry of Works will reprioritize capital projects to increase the number of quickly deployable small-scale capital works to boost small business activity.” The Government will also accelerate the approvals process for all domestic and foreign capital investment projects currently in the pipeline.”