NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The government had spent approximately $140 million on COVID-19 relief measures at the end of June, according to the Ministry of Finance.
The ministry released its fourth quarter fiscal snapshot and report on budgetary performance for Fiscal Year 2019/20 yesterday.
“To combat the adverse impact of COVID-19 on the macro-economy, the government disclosed several programs to lend support to citizens, and business continuity,” it read.
“By end-June, approximately $140 million was spent on COVID-19 related initiatives, which covered food assistance, unemployment support, business continuity loan support for small businesses, tax credits for medium and large businesses, increased funding to the public health sector, and subvention support to allow for utility payment deferrals.”
According to the Ministry of Finance, collectively, these measures have assisted 284 businesses to continue operations; provided approximately 26,000 persons with income replacement, and allowed for the continuation of nearly 5,400 jobs through the end of the fiscal year.
The government implemented a tax credit and deferral program to assist businesses with meeting non-executive payroll.
In Phase I, which ended on June 30, businesses with an annual turnover of over $3 million and at least 25 employees could have applied for a tax credit of up to $300,000 over a three-month period for VAT and Business License fees.
Businesses were also eligible to receive up to $300,000 in these taxes deferred, with payments to begin in January 2021, in 12 monthly installments.
However, eligible businesses must retain at least 80 of their staff level as of February 2020 to receive the credit/deferral, and must not be in the following industries: hotel and resorts, retail or wholesale grocery food, regulated telecommunications, regulated financial and insurance business, or gaming.
The government also offered utility support with BPL and WSC suspending disconnections temporarily and deferring bill payments for a period of three months to June 2020 for persons who have contracted the virus, were in quarantine, or have lost their jobs as a result of the impact of the virus.
An additional $15.2 million was allocated to the Ministry of Health to assist with the detection, treatment and mitigation of COVID-19. This includes the purchase of supplies and equipment, research, etc.
The government also funded an unemployment assistance program, which was being administered by the National Insurance Board (NIB) to provide self-employed persons who have been impacted by COVID-19 with up to $200 per week for an initial period of 8 weeks.
Additionally the government introduced a food assistance program for persons who were placed on reduced work weeks as a result of COVID-19, and provided food vouchers with a value of $100 per week to assist persons with groceries. This program was administered through the Department of Social Services.
Under its business continuity loan program, $25 million was allocated to assist small businesses with less than $3 million in turnover, who have been in existence for at least one year, with loans and grants to assist with payroll and other operational expenses.
Eligible businesses must have agreed to retain at least 51 percent of their staff level as of February 2020. The Small Business Development Center (SDBC) administered this program, with the help of its financial partners.
The Ministry of Finance will hold a press conference on Wednesday to reveal the economic impact of the ongoing novel coronavirus.
When asked about the impact of the pandemic last week, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said: “We will have a press conference next Wednesday. All will be revealed.”