Family on disability fears VAT hike
Brent Saunders and his wife, Brenda-Lee, maintain their livelihood through Mr. Saunders’ lifetime disability check, a feat he said they soon won’t be able to accomplish with the increase of value-added tax (VAT).
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest revealed during the recent budget communication that VAT will increase from 7.5 percent to 12 percent effective July 1.
“My disability doesn’t go far,” Mr. Saunders told The Nassau Guardian outside their Yellow Elder home.
“It’s going to impact my disability and my household maintenance because everything is maintained by my disability check, so I’m being impacted heavily.
“And when they take out 12 percent out of that, on top of the contribution to National Insurance, if they taking it out for my medicare, where am I left, with what?”
Mr. Saunders said he injured himself during an industrial accident.
The couple has four children together, one who also relies on Social Services for invalidity pension.
“I’m on disability. My wife is unemployed; she has arthritis inside her arms. And to be turned down for assistance for a voucher or the visa card to assist in helping the home go forward, this 12 percent is going to kill us,” Mr. Saunders said.
He insisted that the increase is simply not feasible for the country.
“Now at this time, I don’t think it is feasible because the cost of living, the prices in the grocery stores are high; the electricity, the surcharges are high.
“The income that people have [is low] and a lot of people are out of jobs, the government is laying off, so what is the government intending to do.
“Social service is not assisting people right now.
“… So, what are the people going to do?
“People are suffering, and to add more tax onto what is there now, it doesn’t help the poor people, and the majority of people are still unemployed.
“It is too fast, it is [much] too fast. You [aren’t] giving people time to catch themselves. People still ain’t catch themselves from the hurricane and the government ain’t assisting them.”
Mrs. Saunders said the couple has had challenges getting assistance from social services of late.
“We went to social services, we were getting assistance from them, but up to last week they were saying that everything have to be sent up to the head office, so no one will be able to get any vouchers at this time.
“So, it’s going to impact us heavily.
“You can’t always rely on your children’s income because they have other [responsibilities].
“They have mortgages. They have car payments. They have school loans, so you really cannot depend on them at all times to give you assistance.
“So, like I said, this 12 percent is going to hurt a lot of people, especially us.”
She said they will have to cut back on a lot of things, especially food.
“And that is one thing you really should not have to be cutting back on, because the grocery stores are so expensive,” she said.
The couple said, despite the government’s plan to remove VAT from breadbasket items, it still won’t help.
“When car payments come around, that’s another [4.5] percent added on from 7.5 percent from last year,” Mrs. Saunders noted.
“Your insurance premium gone up, VAT is added into that,” Mr. Saunders said. “Your license for your vehicles, VAT is added onto that. You have to buy water, that is going to be impacted also.
“It is still going to add up because the wholesalers… they are going to alternate the prices on their goods, substitute it on this item and charge it to the next item.
“… So, when the person who have the voucher, to be able to get [groceries] when the voucher is issued, the price already gone up on them.”
He insisted that the value of those social services vouchers, which they so heavily rely on, will decrease.
“It [will] decrease, because if you supposed to get $85, by time as they add VAT into it, you down to $74. When you go into the grocery store, you can only get two little grocery bags of canned goods, but you can’t buy meat,” Mr. Saunders added.
“You can’t get barely what you need. You can’t get the asparagus, the kale, the beets, the healthy stuff that you should be eating; you can’t get it.”
While Mrs. Saunders believes that the government should have given people more time to get their affairs in order, her husband believes the timing wouldn’t matter.
“Whether you announce it or not, it’s still going have an impact on the poor people who can’t maintain, the people who are unemployed; massive unemployment, no increase in wages, that’s going to have a heavy impact on people’s lives,” he said.