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Ahead of lockdown, many flock to NIB for help

Rosadel McKenzie lost her job in March and has been struggling ever since.

McKenzie, a widow and mother of two, was one of dozens of Bahamians crowded outside the National Insurance Board (NIB) headquarters yesterday, hoping to receive an unemployment check ahead of a two-week lockdown.

Cases of COVID-19 continue to spike after the country reopened its borders on July 1.

McKenzie said she has been trying to make ends meet to help her family survive throughout the pandemic.

“For two weeks I was going to the bank checking, and nothing was there so that’s why I’m up here today hoping that I would get some answers,” she said.

Following the initial unemployment benefit program, the government agreed to fund an extension of 13 weeks.

NIB paid out approximately $8.7 million to 18,000 Bahamian workers as a part of the program.

McKenzie, who has two daughters who are dependent on her, said it is difficult to make ends meet with no stable source of income.

“My children look to me and I don’t have no one to look up to so I look to God,” she said through tears.

She said she also sought help from the Department of Social Services, but was turned around because of an error in the system.

With two months of pay exhausted, she is hopeful that her money will reach in time before the lockdown.

 Making ends meet

For Sean Neely, a single father of two who said he has not been paid from the program since it began in April, his children are the reason he is trying so hard to remain positive.

“I being good right now. Normally I would’ve been locked up by now, but I’m being calm and waiting it out,” he said.

Neely said he spent the last two months with early mornings at NIB, but he is just waiting on long lines to find out if he is going to receive the assistance.

With no steady pay since May, he found a way to make some cash by transporting family and friends to the grocery store for a small fee.

“Couple people will call me tomorrow to carry them to the food store, up and down,” he said.

“That’s a couple dollars I make. There’s no buses running now, so I just use my car. Some days it’s good and some days it’s bad.”

The bright side

Vernon Jones, 48, a taxicab driver, said despite the small amount of money coming in, he has no complaints because he is still able to provide for his young children.

“From I stopped driving on the 15th of March, there’s not one day that I haven’t had something to eat and my clothes are still clean,” he said outside NIB.

“Four out of my 10 children, I am able to do for and the older ones take care of daddy.”

Regardless of the technical challenge he is having with NIB’s new portal system, Jones was waiting for his check from NIB to ensure he has groceries for his family before the country shuts down again.

“I’m depending on this money from NIB to get me some groceries,” he said.

He added, “I’m getting by.

“I’m making it. I’m not making a big fuss out of it. I’m not blaming no one. [I’m not] trying to put pressure on no one. Once I could wake up and remember who I am and where I am and take on and go on, that’s a blessing.”

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Italia Clarke

Italia Clarke joined the Nassau Guardian in August 2020. Clarke covers national, human interest and social issues. Education: University of The Bahamas, BA in Media Journalism

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