The government’s $10 million Unemployment Relief Fund has benefitted 3,457 people to the tune of $4,366,488, with 2,117 claims denied and 2,072 new ones still processing as of last Thursday, according to Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Minister Vincent Wheatley.
Many applications have been delayed due to employers’ errors, Mr. Wheatley said Tuesday in the House of Assembly while providing an update on the Social Security Board-funded programme that was launched in late May as part of government’s larger Covid-19 economic stimulus package.
“I acknowledge that there are persons yet to receive the benefit, but this is not due to lack of effort behalf of the the SSB,” Mr. Wheatley said. “It is mainly due to the lack of salary information from employers.”
He added that the application process has exposed many employers who have been breaking the law.
“There are hundreds of employers who continue to deduct from the employees and do not remit the contributions to the [Social Security] Board,” he said. “These employers are also in violation of the Labour Code by not giving their employees pay slips. Thus, this lack of information has led to the inability of the SSB to calculate and pay benefits.”
Several employers have been forced to pay past-due contributions in order to earn certificates of good standing, which are now necessary to renew work permits. However, many are still “non-responsive,” the minister said.
Public health measures designed to stem the spread of Covid-19 — including a round-the-clock curfew in April and a ban on tourists since March — resulted in the unemployment of thousands of people, and officials said the temporary relief fund was set up to mitigate the fallout in the workforce.
The SSB began processing applications starting on June 2, and some 10,000 forms were distributed, with about 6,000 filed before the application period closed on July 15, Mr. Wheatley said previously.
At the end of June, the minister said the processing team faced challenges since the SSB had never before distributed money through an unemployment relief fund, and that a computer programme had to be developed.
He nevertheless commended the SSB staff for working “tirelessly” to process the unemployment claims despite setbacks.