(Loop News) Government estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic has left close to 20,000 persons in Barbados on the breadline and this has left the Ministry of Labour scrambling to pay out unemployment benefits.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Colin Jordan said the number of persons who have submitted applications to the National Insurance Office to receive unemployment benefits is between 16,000 and 17,000 and he believes another 3,000 to 4,000 within the informal sector have also been left jobless. He made the disclosure while speaking on Sunday’s episode of the The People’s Business.
Jordan said the Board of the National Insurance has been meeting on a regular basis and the Department has increased the staff complement to process benefit applications.
“The Board [National Insurance Scheme] has been meeting very frequently… to work through their response to the large and unusual number of applications they have received at this time. The systems have already been put in place, they are tweaking, on a weekly basis, the response to ensure persons can have access to benefits in a timely manner.”
The Minister did not provide a date as to how soon benefits would be disbursed to affected persons but he believes the process would begin soon.
He dismissed concerns that there were not adequate funds on hand to meet the demand for persons who qualified to receive benefits.
“At this time there is no need for a top-up but we expect that there will be a need at some point in time. Once a top-up is needed it will be brought to our attention and government will respond accordingly.”
In response to questions as to the potential for job losses in the public sector, the Minister said government has been having ongoing discussions about the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and the potential fall out and all options are “on the table”.
“In those discussions we consider all possible options, in terms of response to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. We recognized very early that we could be impacted very negatively… and we set certain options. We are now in the process of fine tuning policy responses … addressing what some of those options could be. We have put all options on the table as we tailor a response to meet the challenge we face.”