Govt to spend $1.2 million on rental assistance for 1,000 people this month

Govt to spend $1.2 million on rental assistance for 1,000 people this month
Minister of Social Services and Urban Development Frankie Campbell.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell advised today that his ministry will assist nearly 1,000 people with $1,200 each in rental assistance this month.

Campbell, who spoke to reporters on the sidelines of the unveiling of the International Men’s Day mural at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium, advised that his ministry is moving to digitization to more quickly respond to the backlog of applications.

“The pandemic forced us to speed up our efforts toward digitization, so we are seizing the opportunity while there are a number of requests [from] persons for assistance, to see how we can incorporate and speed up the digitization platform,” he said.

“…There is a backlog, I acknowledge that, but we are working on it and I promise we’re nearing the official launch of our digital platform which will speed up the process.”

Campbell noted that the government’s COVID-19 rental assistance program is based on what is done normally, with a limit of $1,200 per person, per year.

“As we advance, based on where we find ourselves, we will have to review and consider,” he said.

The social services minister noted that while there was an influx of applicants at the beginning of the pandemic, those numbers have seemed to “level off” and most of the applicants include “repeat customers”.

He added, “My hope is that the pandemic decreases, that we here in The Bahamas adhere to the protocols and assist the government in trying to restart the economic engine with our tourism industry and that holds until we get to the vaccine, which we are hearing a lot about in the international community.”

In April, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis unveiled a rental assistance program that would have allowed individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to have 40 percent of their rent deferred for three months.

The program was limited to residential rentals only, and individuals whose employment or income had been affected by COVID-19, and renters must have been up to date with their rental payments prior to April to be eligible for relief.

Eligible renters would have had 12 months to pay back deferred rent.

However, Campbell noted that despite the government’s agreement with the lenders to delay mortgage payments for a period, the initiative didn’t see a trickle-down to renters.