Government has created a special $400 million temporary unemployment grant for people who may be affected by the impact of its covid19 precautions on the economy.
At a media briefing Monday at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Finance Minister Colm Imbert called the new Salary Relief Grant the “most important measure” that his team had come up with “because we recognise because of the measures taken and because of the issues associated with this pandemic there will be people unemployed.”
People who have been temporarily unemployed or displaced as a result of the pandemic will be eligible for a grant up to $1,500 a month for three months in the first instance. The grant will be administered through the National Insurance Board, because it already has data on all the people in the PAYE (pas as you earn) tax system.
“We will give them the money for each unemployed individual who is temporarily displaced. We will work out the details and qualification criteria in due course over the next (week) or so,” Imbert said. He estimated the grant would cost $400 million over the next three months “but we thought it was necessary.”
Government will also allocate $50 million to a grant facility geared especially towards Tobago hoteliers to allow them to upgrade their rooms. It will also contribute another $5 million to a THA enterprise facility that gives grants up to $25,000 to people in the tourism sector.
Other announcements included a deferral for mortgages at the Home Mortgage Bank and the TT Mortgage and Finance Company, both state enterprises, of up to three months initially and then, “depending on how things go,” up to six months. The Housing Development Company is also looking at deferrals for rent and mortgages for two months (March/April) and then as the situation evolves, would see if they should extend it.
“I must stress these are for people who need it. I encourage anybody who has the wherewithal to be current with their loan payments, if you can pay, then pay. These arrangements are for people who ask for it and people who need it but it is not limited to needy people.”
The previously announced Liquidity Support Programme, to be administered by credit unions, will cost the state $100 million. It will allow credit union members to access funds on favourable interest terms and over time. Details are still being worked out, Imbert said.
He also noted that the Minister of Trade was in discussions with moneylenders, and while a definite agreement hadn’t been decided just yet, “They too have agreed in the spirit of collaboration with everyone to provide deferred payments to customers and interest rate reduction.”