Govt still deciding whether to extend unemployment program

The government will make a decision next week on whether it will extend its unemployment assistance program beyond January, according to Minister of Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle.

“Discussions are going on with it and a formal position will be taken on Tuesday,” Rolle told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.

He continued, “We are considering it. We are in discussions with the Ministry of Finance on it. So, we’ll see.”

When asked if the government is considering increasing or decreasing the payouts, if the program is extended, Rolle replied, “The Ministry of Finance is looking at those options. Don’t forget that we are just the agency that works on behalf of the Ministry of Finance. We understand what is happening in this economy.

“We know that things are tough. We will make a decision that will be in the best interest of the government and the Bahamian people.”

The payments are issued weekly by the government through the National Insurance Board (NIB) and are for individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It gives 13 weeks of support to individuals who have already received the legal limit of 13 weeks of unemployment benefit from NIB.

It also extends the unemployment assistance program set up to cover those who would not normally qualify for the benefit.

The government gave weekly payments of $200 when the program started in March and decreased the payments to $150 on July 1.

In October, it decreased the payments to $100. 

Last month, while announcing an extension for the program through January, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said 36,959 Bahamians had already benefited from the program.

As of this week, the government has spent $131 million on the program since March, according to Rolle.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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