GOVERNMENT has paid out 20,000 salary relief grants and is now doing 1,000 new grants per day, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said, marking the milestone with a tweet Friday morning.
This follows his tweet on Wednesday in which he noted that so far, Government has received 51,098 applications for the Salary Relief Grant for people within the NIS system, 1,600 of whom are from Tobago.
Given that the grants are for $1,500, this means the State has paid out at least $30 million so far in relief for workers who have been temporarily displaced by the coronavirus pandemic and the government's policies to mitigate its spread, starting March 19 until June 30 (the grant's initial duration is three months – April, May and June).
Imbert has previously stated that the estimated cost for this first phase of Salary Relief Grants will be about $400 million and extending that could take it up to $500 million.
He also tweeted last Friday that so far in 2020, Government has paid in cash $90 million in corporation tax refunds, $267 million in individual income tax refunds and $970 million in VAT refunds, as well as $581,227 million in VAT refund bonds. In total that would be $1.91 billion to 61,611 entities.
He said the aim was to assist with cash flow in this difficult time.
In the House Friday Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee asked, given Imbert's public statements that out of about 51,098 applications only 18,899 were paid, when the remaining salary relief grant applications would be urgently addressed. Imbert replied that the number of grants paid as stated by Lee was outdated (it was from two days ago) and as at Thursday 20,173 people had received the grant at a cost of $28 million.
He reported that out of the 51,000 applications received not all of them are valid and approximately 20 per cent were not valid. He said the reasons applications were invalid included: people who may have been out of employment long before the March 19 publication of the first public health restriction, people not within the National Insurance System (NIS), or people who are not citizens of TT.
"So out of the 51,000 just about 40,000 in my estimation, but accurate figures can be given in due course, would be valid. And we have paid 50 per cent of those so far. And we would think that by the end of this month all 40,000 valid applications will be paid."
He stressed the grant is for people within the NIS and not people outside this system.
Lee also asked whether salary relief grants would be made available to workers who lost their jobs beyond June 1 when businesses were allowed to resume operations. Imbert replied the projection for the cost of the salary relief grants is for the months of April, May and June. He explained this was based on a projection at the time the first set of public health restrictions were enacted as to how long people would be out of jobs.
"This is a dynamic situation. It's an evolving situation. And this Government keeps this matter under constant review and we will make appropriate decisions based on what is determined in terms of what actually is happening."
He reiterated the grant is for people out of a job because of the public health restrictions.
(With reporting by Julien Neaves)