Minister of Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle said yesterday the 17,000 unemployment claims already filed by Bahamians amid the COVID-19 crisis do not include staff laid off by major resorts.
“Up to yesterday, approximately 17,000 applications had come before the NIB (National Insurance Board) board to be processed,” Rolle said.
“That excludes the major hotels because we are negotiating with them separately.”
He added, “We are working with the hotels so that arrangements will be made to pay off their staff who are unemployed in a quicker way.”
Rolle said a full team of officers, which includes employees from the Department of Inland Revenue, is working to process the applications.
With global travel shut down, tourism workers were among the first to feel the economic impacts of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
Both Atlantis and Baha Mar closed their doors as the country shut down, and travel came to a halt as a result of the virus.
The resorts are two of the largest private employers in the country.
Rolle could not say exactly when applicants will be able to receive payments but noted the payments will begin “very quickly”.
“One of the things we discussed yesterday in NIB is how we could make the process faster so that individuals through this period can get their money,” he said.
He noted applications can be made online, and payments will be made by direct deposit as opposed to the issuance of checks wherever possible.
“We are trying to reduce the face-to-face contact,” he said.
While the government initially projected a $1 billion loss as a result of COVID-19, Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said earlier this week that the situation could be far worse than that.