Govt will soon run out of budgeted funds for COVID-19 assistance programs

The Ministry of Finance will run out of budgeted funds for COVID-19-related assistance programs by the end of September, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday.

“We have projected in our budget that we would extend the benefit payments — from the Ministry of Finance’s point of view and the government’s point of view — for three months from July,” he said.

“So, July, August and September.

“So, at the end of September, it is our projected date when we would run out of budgeted funds for the assistance programs that were offered.”

When asked what the government will do after that date, Turnquest replied, “We’re going to have to make decisions about how we cut back in other areas so we can continue to support people to the extent that we can. 

“I don’t want to speculate on what we might have to do. We’ll certainly have to start making some adjustments to make sure that we continue to provide benefits for the most vulnerable and for the absolute necessities of the most vulnerable.”

In May, Turnquest said the government allotted $86 million in “direct support” to Bahamians in the 2020/2021 budget through the extension of the COVID-19 policy measures that were implemented in March.

He said the government had also “expanded its social safety net by some $140 million in the wake of COVID-19”.

The government launched several initiatives to assist during the health crisis.

Last week, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) said at least 30,649 households were registered for assistance from the National Food Distribution Task Force, which requires $1 million in weekly funding from the government.

It also said that $18 million in tax credits were approved for medium and large-sized businesses — with more than 25 employees — via the government’s tax credit and tax deferral retention program.

The Small Business Development Center approved $38.6 million in grants and seven year loans for small businesses, according to the OPM.

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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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