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Hundreds gather outside stadium hoping to get NIB checks

Standing in the shade of the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium with her one-month-old infant in her arms, De’Ardra Wallace, 36, was one of hundreds of people waiting Monday morning for overdue checks from the National Insurance Board (NIB).

Wallace said she’s been unemployed since March and has yet to receive any funds for her unemployment or maternity benefit.

“I didn’t receive the live birth and I had my baby in June,” she said.

“[I’ve gotten] nothing, not even my unemployment, nothing.”

Eyeing the long lines that wrapped around the stadium, in some parts unshaded from the summer sun, Wallace said she didn’t know what she would do.

With no one to watch her children, she had no other option but to bring her baby with her and leave her six-year-old waiting in the car.

Describing the entire dilemma as “disheartening”, Wallace said she applied for unemployment online and hoped that the payments would be deposited directly to her account.

She said she’s made repeated calls to NIB, but to no avail.

“I don’t know, because every time I call, I’m not getting through,” she said.

“I went to the main branch. It’s a turnaround. I put in my stuff from March and haven’t received anything at all.”

Wallace said she feels helpless.

“It’s frustrating bad because I have to depend on people and people going through their stuff as well and you don’t want to be too much of a burden on them,” she said.

“And being a single parent, this really is terrible.”

The scene at the stadium was a sad one, with crowds of people lined up, some having arrived as early as 5 a.m., and minimal social distancing.

Two women, who were walking back to their vehicles, described the situation as “demoralizing”, noting they also had been waiting for weeks for payments from NIB, and even after standing on the line for hours, they still received nothing.

Last week, Director of Labour John Pinder estimated that well over 40 percent of Bahamians are unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For many of them, NIB unemployment benefit is the only security net they have to provide some sustenance for themselves and their families.

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.

Last week, Pinder said there were thousands of unclaimed checks at the stadium. 

The Bahamas is seeing a second wave of the virus, with 898 cases recorded so far, 15 deaths and 777 active cases and 104 recoveries. 

Most of the country remains in lockdown, which forced many businesses to temporarily close. 

Over the weekend, NIB put out a list of names of people who should come in and collect their checks. More than 2,400 names were listed.

However, the complaint that there was nothing to collect, despite having paid contributions for years, was a common one among those gathered yesterday.

As he exited the stadium, Travis Musgrove, 34, shouted to others still on the line, “I hope you know what waiting for y’all in there – nothing.”

Musgrove said he was waiting on the line from early in the morning and finally got inside only to learn that there was no check for him.

“I checked the list,” he said.

“My name was on the list for this morning. 

“I came here out my bed from 6:30 this morning. Right now, they’re telling me ain’t nothing there.

“I don’t know what’s going on. We need a solution. We need help.”

Musgrove said he got his first four checks but has been run around for weeks now, and he is at his wit’s end with NIB.

“They’ve been giving me the runaround for almost two months,” he said.

“I’ve been coming here and every time I come, they tell me to come back. I go back again, the check isn’t ready. So, I want to know, what is going on? Who is responsible for printing these checks out and why are they putting a list out with people’s names on it and there is no money?

“So you have a bunch of people on this line now assuming that they’re going to get some type of payment from NIB. That is our money, okay.

“I can’t take this no more right now.

“Whoever is in charge of NIB needs to fix this situation quick, fast and in a hurry.”

Selena Chipman, upon seeing the line at the stadium, said she wasn’t sure she could wait for hours to be let down again. 

“I’m hoping to collect a check from NIB, but every time you come here there’s nothing here for you,” she said.

Chipman added, “I really don’t intend to go on that line this morning. Honestly, I am fed up and tired of coming to NIB and no results.”

A massage therapist at Ocean Club, Chipman said she has been unemployed since late March. She said she goes to NIB at least twice a week, but has only received two checks from NIB.

“I received two checks and after that, nothing else,” she said.

She added, “You have to keep checking because sometimes they say they’ll call you, but you never get a call.

“Never ever.”

Describing the situation as “horrible” she said something needs to be done.

“I would like for them to try and make it happen instead of people coming here and when they reach to the window, nothing happens,” she said.

“It doesn’t make any sense.

“How do you think people feel when they come here, for example, people who have little kids, and there is nothing for them to take back to their kids?

“It’s horrible.”

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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