Government is working to change the necessary legislation that would facilitate the implementation of a long-term Unemployment Benefits Programme in the British Virgin Islands.
Premier Andrew Fahie said on local radio Tuesday that the programme will be instituted by the Social Security Board.
“For about more than the last five years they have been trying to get in this as a new initiative where you have an unemployment benefit from Social Security ongoing,” he said.
“So now we have told Social Security, ‘bring it forward and we are going to make sure we get the legislation in place to put it in’,” the Premier added.
Proposal for funding
Premier Fahie, who is also the Finance Minister, said At-Large Representative and Deputy Speaker Neville Smith has made recommendations on how the programme will be funded.
He said Smith’s proposal would not require any further statutory deductions to the salary of contributors.
“I want to point out that right now persons pay about 8.5 percent and businesses half. And they might say here comes another bill,” Fahie began. “But, when we were discussing this matter, honourable Neville Smith said … rather than letting it be 8.5 percent, we can drop that down to 7.5 percent in the beginning and leave the one percent for the unemployment benefit.”
The employer and employee will each contribute half of that one percent, which would bring the total deductions back to the 8.5 percent.
He said the recommendation is now being evaluated as an option to see if the scheme will be sustainable.
Penn’s unemployment benefit proposal
This announcement from the Premier comes roughly two weeks after Opposition Leader Marlon Penn had proposed a COVID-19 Strategic Economic Recovery Plan, which also promoted the implementation of an unemployment benefits scheme.
Penn had stated that his programme would have been administered through an existing unit of the Social Security Board once legislative amendments were made.
He also proposed that the programme receive seed funding either through a joint contribution between the SSB and government or solely government.
Penn said this seed funding could be recouped over an extended period of time, through the monthly deductions of employee salaries which should be calculated to a certain percentage.
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