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30,000 apply for unemployment assistance

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, nearly 30,000 people have applied for unemployment assistance, Minister of Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle said yesterday.

Many business operators in the country have been forced to lay off thousands of employees as social distancing orders, a national curfew and the mandated closure of all non-essential businesses have brought the economy to a standstill.

All of the efforts were put in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which first surfaced in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

Outside Cabinet, Rolle said that number is expected to “increase significantly”.

“We have just under 30,000 applications for unemployment assistance,” he said.

“So far, we have spent about $5 million on 12,000 applications.

“We are processing a significant number of small businesses, so we expect the numbers will increase significantly. We anticipate that the Family Islands are somewhat slow, so they are coming in at a slower pace.

“Apart from the normal unemployment assistance offered by NIB, 3,000 persons have applied for the special assistance given by the government in the tourism industry and we are processing those and we have made payments so far to most of those individuals.”

The hardest hit industry has been tourism, the backbone of the Bahamian economy.

Major hotels were among the first to lay off employees.

Baha Mar, Atlantis, Club Med on San Salvador and Sandals, among others, all closed their hotels in March.

However, as the crisis has deepened with a 24-hour curfew in place and complete shutdowns scheduled, many smaller businesses have also had to let go of their staff as their doors remain closed for weeks on end. 

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