Scores of applications were filed yesterday, the first day self-employed workers who have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 lockdown measures were able to apply for a part of $5 million earmarked for relief.
National Insurance Board (NIB) Director Nicola Virgill-Rolle told Guardian Business that up to the close of business hours yesterday, the board received in excess of 200 applications.
This level of assistance is being made available by the government for those self-employed people who do not have employees and are in possession of a valid business license, and are not a part of the usual NIB unemployment benefit program.
“Jitney drivers without a business license may apply. However, a valid and current public service driver’s badge is required,” NIB said.
“Self-employed persons must be currently registered with NIB or be registered at the time of application.”
Successful applicants are expected to be paid $200 per week, every two weeks, covering the time of the government-mandated emergency order restrictions – from March 20 until April 30, for now, according to NIB.
The only group of people not eligible for applying is classified as those already receiving or eligible to receive unemployment benefits from NIB, or those who are a part of the recent program for self-employed people in the tourism industry, NIB noted.
“There will be no means testing (i.e. an examination into the financial state of persons to determine eligibility for benefits),” NIB said.
While NIB is waiving the requirement that self-employed applicants be up to date with their contributions for those looking to benefit from this government assistance, applicants will be required to register at the time of application and must also sign a declaration that they are not being paid by an employer at the moment; will inform NIB if there are any changes in their circumstances which may affect their entitlement to payment; and will acknowledge that it is an offence to provide false information or to withhold information to qualify for this payment.
Those who are found making false statements or falsifying documents to qualify for the applications face a fine not exceeding $2,500 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.