Premier Andrew Fahie has delivered a $62.9 million COVID-19 Economic Stimulus-Response Plan which seeks to allocate funds to jobless residents, struggling businesses, hotels, taxi operators, and other areas.
He said the majority of the funds came from the Social Security Board (SSB) and represents Phase Two of the government’s stimulus-response to COVID-19.
Of the total $62.9 million package, $40 million was a grant from the SSB while $17 million was from the SSB’s Affordable Housing Project.
An additional $2 million grant was received from an undisclosed source, and will go towards assisting with infrastructure. The remaining funds amounting to $3.9 million will be from government’s coffers.
Breakdown of $$ from grant
Premier Fahie said $10 million will be channelled towards unemployment relief support for persons who have been either laid off or placed on reduced working hours or days because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Persons who are ‘eligible’ would be able to receive unemployment income support for a period not exceeding three months.
He explained that the compensation would be on a case-by-case basis and persons would be required to furnish the relevant information to the SSB “to show how they were affected by COVID-19 based on the criterion that will be published”.
Application forms will be available at the SSB’s office starting June 2.
The Premier said $6.5 million will be made available to local businesses that were affected by the virus. They will be able to access these funds through grants.
“Businesses that qualify for this grant will be expected to put this funding to work and make a genuine effort to keep their staff employed,” Fahie explained.
“These special business grants to help our local businesses will be administered by a team comprised of representatives of the Ministry of Finance, Premier’s Office and the Department of Trade, Investment Promotions & Consumer Affairs,” he added.
Application forms will be available at the Department of Trade or on the government’s official website starting June 15.
Another area to benefit is the accommodation sector. Premier Fahie said a $1 million grant has been allocated for hotels, guest houses, inns and villas who were forced to close to visitors because of COVID-19.
The funds will go towards assisting with cash flow to provide income opportunities for their employees and also to stimulate opportunities for security services, food provisioning, and transport initiatives.
Interested property owners are asked to contact the BVI Tourist Board and the Ministry of Health & Social Development for further details and to register.
Other sectors to benefit
In the meantime, the Premier said daycare centres, private schools, churches and other religious organisations that have been adversely affected by COVID-19 has been allotted a $1 million relief package.
“The details of how and where to apply for this assistance will be published on bvi.gov.vg by June 15 so that qualifying persons and organisations affected by COVID-19 can apply,” he stated.
Another $1 million will go towards taxi operators who have been affected by the COVID-19, Premier Fahie noted.
He said the monies would be used to “engage local licensed taxi operators to provide the shuttle service, as well as to transport returning nationals and residents to government quarantine facilities, as needed”.
A similar programme will be launched on the sister islands at an undisclosed date in June, he further said.
Meanwhile, the Social Development Department will get $1 million to assist persons with social needs arising from COVID-19.
The National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme will receive $7.5 million, to assist in providing adequate healthcare for residents, “especially during this COVID-19 era,” Premier stated.
He explained that the scheme was never adequately funded, and it is important that all the medical providers, pharmacies and other entities, regardless of the size of their businesses benefit from this fund.
A further $9 million grant will also go towards the Housing Recovery Unit to assist homeowners to repair their properties. The Premier said an additional $2 million has been set aside to commence work on the East End-Long Look Sewerage Project and $3.9 million was allotted for quicker financial help for residents through the nine district representatives or the four at-large representatives.
No other choice
The Premier, who is also the Minister for Finance, explained that the government opted to ‘avoid touching taxpayers’ piggy bank’ because of the hurricane season as well as the continuous seismic activity being experienced at this time.
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