Leader of the Opposition Marlon Penn is advocating for the business community to receive their long-awaited stimulus package from the Government of the Virgin Islands.
Addressing the issue via a statement on Thursday, Penn said while he is ‘glad’ that government heeded their ‘many calls’ not to completely shut down the territory because of the spike in COVID-19 cases, the new curfew still places a challenge to the business community.
“The new curfew order has created limited hours of work for the majority of our residents, which will place many at an even greater financial disadvantage. I urge the government to give the highest priority to supporting our small businesses and to concentrate on fixing our economy. And by fixing our economy, I am not talking about pretty charts on social media,” Penn stated.
“Our response to COVID-19 that is the initial 24-hour lockdown, and the further ongoing restrictions have taken a serious toll on our businesses’ ability to make money, pay their employees, and pay their bills,” he added.
The Opposition leader said many businesses across the territory have closed their doors — some temporarily and others permanently — and many have tried to stay afloat and support their employees with their own personal finances.
He said many are still awaiting the promised fiscal stimulus either from the Unemployment/Underemployment Benefits Programme (or Income Relief Support Programme) or the economic stimulus grant for businesses.
“I know this to be true because many persons and businesses have complained to me personally. To this end, as a strong advocate for the business community, I challenge the government and its agencies to become more efficient and ensure that our businesses receive their much-needed financial help immediately. It has been far too long,” Penn stated.
In May, Premier Andrew Fahie announced that $10 million had been allocated to an Unemployment Relief Fund which will be managed by the Social Security Board.
The initiative is part of the government’s economic stimulus plan and is geared at assisting residents whose employment status have been affected as a result of COVID-19.
A $6.5 million grant was earmarked as a relief programme for micro, small and medium-sized businesses.
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