NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Public Service Minister Brensil Rolle revealed yesterday that thousands of NIB benefit checks remain uncollected at the National Stadium.
In March, the government launched an unemployment benefits program to assist workers impacted by the ongoing global pandemic, which has seen a worldwide spread of a contagious and deadly coronavirus.
However, some applicants have complained of weeks-long periods without receiving benefits.
“[There are] thousands of checks for individuals at the sports center,” Rolle told Eyewitness News.
“People are complaining that they didn’t get pay, but the checks are sitting up at the sports center, waiting for them to be collected.
“When I say thousands, I [mean] thousands of checks and they are waiting for individuals to collect them because people make the application and they don’t do anything else other than say ‘I didn’t get paid’.”
Rolle advised anyone who had qualified and applied for the benefit to visit the National Stadium during the available time and see if their checks are ready for collection.
He explained that officials have been publishing the names of workers whose checks were ready in the newspapers and on social media, however, Rolle said that it has not been enough.
“If the number persists after the two weeks of lockdown then we’ll have to take the next steps to perhaps arrange for individuals to pick up their check son certain days from either a renewed site or form tents or something,” he said.
“I hear the cry of individuals who say that they don’t have any money or national insurance has not been responsive, but generally speaking, the checks are there, they’re sitting at the sport center’s office and no one has collected.”
The NIB minister said some of the checks are dated to the start of the program.
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. An online portal for the program was launched last month.
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: Persons 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.
Eligible individuals will receive $150 per week for a maximum of 13 weeks during periods of unemployment.