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Temporary Unemployment Benefit Rejected: DAIC Perplexed, DSS Saddened

by: - May 1, 2020
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Reports from the Dominica Social Security are that Government has rejected its proposal to establish a temporary unemployment benefit for its members whose income has been affected by the Covid19 crisis.

Director of the Dominica Social Security, Janice Jean Jacques Thomas revealed on Thursday with great sadness that the proposal to combine $8m from the DSS and an initial $9.5m from government to provide an unemployment relief package was rejected.

The Dominica Social Security announced in early April that it had proposed a minimal benefit to its members who would not qualify for a sickness payout if Covid19 affected their income and they did not qualify for a sickness benefit.

When Hon Skerrit made the announcement, this news was followed by commentary and accusations of strong-arming the national insurance scheme.

The Hon Opposition Leader described it as a raid.

The Hon Prime Minister says that response had led him to consult the Constitution of Dominica which did not prohibit the action.

On Thursday, DSS Director Janice Jean Jacques-Thomas grieved over the final decision.

I received a letter from the Prime Minister which said thanks for your proposal but we will not take it,” she revealed.

“I have been saddened by the turnout of this thing. I really thought and I am still convinced that this proposal was doing something to help Dominicans whose lives and livelihoods have been affected by Covid, and to see how it has turned into a political tool hurts my heart,” Jean Jacques-Thomas said further.

A member of CARICOM Heads of Social Security, the Director says other islands have taken the decision in the interest of their nationals.

She listed St Lucia, Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines as having already implemented the legislative changes required

Bahamas and Barbados are the only nations in the grouping with established unemployment provisions. Others are looking to also support those whose jobs have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Kenneth Green, President of the Dominica Association of Industry and Commerce also commented on what has turned into a surprise controversy.

The DAIC was one of several private sector stakeholders involved in consultation with the Social Security and government before the announcement of the unemployment benefit.

Green says all parties had reached consensus.

“Something changed” between April 9th and now, he said detailing that each representative had left the meeting “safely feeling that the next time, we would be hearing from government would be to say here is the final draft of the package that is going to be announced.”

Green says he expected implementation to come next week especially since the Hon Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Roosevelt Skerrit had publicly announced the plan.

The DAIC President muses that whatever has caused the change in decision “has not been exposed to the greater group.”

On Thursday morning, Hon Skerrit had said that he had not yet decided.