Policy changes for NIB benefits post-storm

Policy changes for NIB benefits post-storm

Minister says greater flexibility needed with how NIB responds to disasters

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Labour Brensil Rolle yesterday foreshadowed several policy changes to the National Insurance Board (NIB) in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

Rolle stressed the changes were necessary to ensure the social safety net of The Bahamas is more flexible in its response to national tragedies of a large scale.

He said benefits under review are housing allowances, the relocation of public officers and other financial considerations during debate on Disaster Preparedness and Response Amendment Bill, 2019.

“There must be flexibility in the way we respond to national tragedies of this scale to allow for maximum efficiency in delivery of relief efforts and for maximum sensitivity to our citizen’s individual needs,” he said. “Without getting into too much detail, I can assure this honorable House that efforts are being made in this regard by the Ministry of Public

Addressing Parliament, Rolle said NIB received unemployment claims from over 900 people affected by Hurricane Dorian between September 2 and October 4, 2019.

Thousands are estimated to have been impacted by the Category 5 storm. There were 495 claims between September 2 and September 24, the minister said. Of those, 476 claimants were from Abaco and 19 from Grand Bahama.

There were 412 claims between September 25 and October 4.

“We know that some firms continue to pay their workers and we expect that more claims will come in the near future as Bahamians seek to rebuild their lives,” Rolle said. “Again, I wish to thank the staff of the claims department for their
hard work in this regard.

“Additionally, I wish to advise that the National Insurance Board and the Ministry of Finance are currently seeking to understand additional ways that unemployed workers can be supported during this most difficult time.”

The minister said given the destruction, NIB recognized there would be an influx of benefits claimed. He said the normal process for claiming and collecting employment benefits for displaced residents is being modified to ensure a practical solution.

Rolle also said NIB is seeking to direct deposit unemployment benefits to accounts upon an in-person verification at either NIB or the island administrator.

The minister outlined NIB’s efforts to assist public servants in the aftermath of the monster storm, which devastated portions of Abaco and Grand Bahama between September 1-3.

Affected permanent and pensionable public officers received a two month salary to be repaid over two years.

The government provided a lump sum of $1,000 to all public servants and contract workers affected by the hurricane; a relocation payment of $2,600 for those displaced; a hardship allowance for those who were eligible; and rental assistance in certain instances.

Rolle pointed out many residents from Abaco and Grand Bahama lost everything, including their documentation critical to rebuilding their lives. He said NIB took proactive steps to assist with issuing replacement NIB
smart cards to residents in Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Rolle said the board has simplified the application process, namely waiving the replacement card fee for registrants from impacted islands.

For non-Bahamians, he explained, renewal cards were only issued where NIB had copies of relevant documents, or in cases where there was a smart card expiration date that correlated with a permit expiration date
in its database. NIB replaced 774 smart cards.