NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The National Insurance Board is working to restore its online portal for the government-funded Unemployment Benefit Extension Programme this week, according to its director Dr Nicola Virgill-Rolle.
“Our IT team is working on that,” Virgill-Rolle said yesterday.
“They’ve been working on that from the weekend, doing some updates, some necessary fixes that were there.
“We hope to have that up within the next two days or so.
“We have a next payment run in another week or so.”
Virgill-Rolle advised individuals who need to register to wait until the website gets back up to complete the “quick and easy process”.
She explained that it should only take a few minutes for registrants to activate their account and then be informed whether they are pre-enrolled or eligible for the extended program.
Registrants would then have to verify the dates worked, and once completed, the payments will be processed.
NIB has advised that funds will be available on recipient’s bank account within one to three days after registration.
Individuals who were previously receiving check payments will now receive payments to their IslandPay or SunCash digital wallet.
The first payment cycle was processed on July 23 for the 14,002 eligible applicants who had registered on the new portal.
The government launched an unemployment benefits program to assist workers impacted by the ongoing global pandemic in March.
Officials have been publishing the names of workers whose checks were ready in the newspapers and on social media.
However, some applicants have complained of weeks-long periods without receiving benefits.
Public Service Minister Brensil Rolle put out a call last week for individuals to pick up the thousands of checks that remain uncollected at the National Stadium.
Yesterday, hundreds of people queued on lines in the scorching heat to see if their checks were ready.
Rolle said defense force officers have been assisting with ensuring social distancing protocols are being followed.
Workers are asked to bring an identification when picking up checks,.
Rolle encouraged those doing pickups to check if their name has been published or call the NIB command center to see if a check is ready.
She furthered that on days when it is possible, staff have also been calling people to inform them that their checks are ready for pickup.
“We have had one or two incidences where names would have appeared on the list, but all of their payments would have already been collected so there was no further check,” Virgill-Rolle said.
Despite the country being on a 23-hour lockdown, the new emergency orders permit the National Insurance Board to open to the general public to distribute cheques at the National Stadium on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between the hours of 9am and 5pm.
The government allocated $48 million to finance the expansion of the government’s unemployment assistance programs administered.
Individuals who were unemployed due to the COVID-19 shutdown between March 23 – June 30, and continue to be unemployed, are eligible for the extension programme if they fall under one of four categories: individuals who have exhausted their 13 weeks of NIB’s unemployment benefit (UEB) payments which became payable because of layoffs/termination due to COVID 19; individuals who were enrolled in the Hurricane Dorian UEB Extension Programme and had exhausted the 13 weeks of extended payments; individuals who were employed in full time employment for at least three months before the COVID-19 related shutdown and were under the age of 35 but did not meet the required number of contributions to claim NIB’s unemployment benefit; and self-employed individuals in the tourism sector who were previously enrolled in the Government-funded Unemployment Assistance (UEA) Programme.