The Tobago Business Chamber is calling on the central government to speed up the promised covid19 grant payments.
After Newsday sent a question on Monday, the chamber’s chairman Martin George, in a Whatsapp voice note, expressed its solidarity and support for the members of the business community in Tobago, who he said were “hardest hit” by the effects of covid19 and subsequent measures.
He said while the chamber understands and empathises with its members, who are experiencing grave financial difficulties, it still expresses unreserved support for the science and health professionals who have been giving guidance and advice.
Tourism has been hit hard by the pandemic and a second lockdown period began on August 17 with beaches and rivers closed as well as travel restricted to essential services on the seabridge and airbridge. The Prime Minister said the measures would last 28 days. As the final week of the lockdown comes to an end, George said the Chamber supports the measures adopted.
“We still would defer to their better judgement and their greater knowledge on these issues.
“While it is I know our members are eagerly anticipating the reopening of at least the Trinidad/ Tobago travel, the opening of the beaches, rivers, bars, restaurants so that persons can come to Tobago and enjoy a nice holiday, we still would wait until we hear what the health experts and the science and the professionals recommend. At the end of the day, we recognise that we may have to ensure short-term pain in order to achieve long-term gain,” he said
However, he is calling on the government to do all in its power to expedite relief grants to people in Tobago. He pointed out workers in Tobago who are yet to receive the salary grant and businesses which applied, as well as the hotel/ tourism relief grants.
“We also want to ensure that all of these things are expedited and not caught up in unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy.
“We don’t want it to be a PR stunt by the government, whereby they have advertised these grants and by and large you have persons complaining about the fact that they’ve still have not gotten them,” he said.
Last Thursday at the post-Executive Council media briefing in Scarborough, Secretary of Health, Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson-Celestine said 150 applications for rental assistance grant are still being processed, the division having received 932 applications to date. She acknowledged challenges in processing the grants but said the division is focused on treating with each application submitted.
With regard to salary relief grants, Davidson-Celestine met with Minister of Social Development and Family Services Donna Cox on Monday to discuss the challenges with the grants, which are administered by her ministry.
A press release from the ministry said Cox met with Davidson-Celestine, along with assistant secretary Nadine Stewart-Phillips and administrator Cherryl-Ann Solomon to discuss, among other things, the administration of covid19 social support measures in Tobago.
Cox said the visit was of critical importance to the ministry, as the social services sector will continue to adopt a more definitive role in TT’s national recovery efforts over the next five years. She said a great sense of urgency surrounds the approval of outstanding requests from Tobago for covid19-related social relief. While the backlog continues to engage the ministry, she said, TTPost Tobago will distribute debit cards and cheques to approximately 200 approved applicants across the island by the end of this week. The delay, she said, was caused after one of its contractors tested positive for covid19.
On the hotel/ tourism relief grants managed by the Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd (TTAL), director of tourism product development and destination marketing Narendra Ramgulam said distribution has begun and to date, three businesses have been boosted to the tune of $300,000 each. The three are Bananaquit, Villa Indra and Mike’s Holiday Resort.
The grants aim to accelerate the island’s tourism industry on the pathway to post-covid19 economic and social recovery. The grants were provided by central government and not only support deserving businesses but also fit into plans to ensure Tobago’s properties can meet demand and international standards once the country’s borders reopen.