Social Services processing rental assistance after months of delay

Social Services processing rental assistance after months of delay
Minister of Social Services and Urban Development Frankie Campbell during his report on COVID-19 Initiatives yesterday. (BIS Photo/Ulric Woodside)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell said yesterday that the department is currently processing rental assistance after months of delay in the program.

Campbell sought to assure individuals who have applied for the program but have yet to receive a response from officials on the matter.

However, he could not provide further details on how many people have applied for the rent assistance with the Department of Social Services, at the time.

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 have 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, there has been little to no movement on the initiative to date.

Campbell said: “Part of the difficulty is, if you would recall initially, the prime minister had indicated that he would have communicated with the lending agencies to defer mortgage payments and it was his hope that that deferral would translate to a deferral of rent payments by tenants.

“We began to realize that that wasn’t working out and we reviewed our ability and resources and as a result, I can say that we are now processing rental assistance.

“Some persons have already received their rental assistance, I want to assure those who are waiting that they will also be responded to.”

The country remains in a state of emergency with new COVID-19 cases in New Providence climbing daily against a backdrop of economic downturn.

The government’s state of emergency and emergency orders have mandated business establishments to work from home and businesses whose operations were unable to do so were forced to shut their doors during both the first and second wave of cases.

Companies across the country have laid off employees, including major hotels such as Atlantis and Baha Mar.

Bahamian government officials have advised regional bodies that approximately 40 percent of Bahamians could be unemployed “in coming months” as a result of the global pandemic.