More than $60M paid by NIB to unemployed Bahamians

To date, the National Insurance Board (NIB) has paid out in excess of $60 million in unemployment benefits to more than 34,000 claimants, the board revealed yesterday.

This comes as NIB prepares to continue paying benefits as a part of the government’s $48 million unemployment benefits (UEB) extension program, which is set to begin on July 17.

“Most recipients have received 8 to 10 weeks of benefit, as NIB prepares to process payments up to the 13 weeks maximum over the next week for many recipients. However, NIB has found a number of cases where the benefit has been suspended automatically in the system, pending manual verifications of continued unemployment or because contributions continued to be paid by the employer following the layoff dates,” NIB noted in a statement yesterday.

“In many cases, the contributions had been paid in error and the benefit payments will be allowed to proceed. To address these matters, NIB has been working closely with its IT vendor to make the necessary changes which are expected to be resolved by the end of this week.”

The government is funding the extension of the unemployment benefits scheme, which typically only lasts 13 weeks, due to the ongoing economic crisis as a result as the prolonged economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The extension would apply to self-employed tourism workers who remain unemployed and were receiving assistance prior to July 1; Hurricane Dorian survivors who remain unemployed and were receiving unemployment assistance prior to July 1; NIB contributors who are under 35 years old, who were unemployed during the COVID-19 shutdown but did not meet the contribution threshold to receive a benefit; and individuals who have maxed out their 13 weeks of eligibility under the ordinary NIB unemployment benefit scheme.

“NIB reminds its customers that the unemployment benefit is paid at the rate of 50 percent of the average insured wages for a period of up to 13 weeks. The maximum unemployment weekly benefit is therefore $335 per week, that is 50 percent of the wage ceiling of $670. The wage ceiling is adjusted biennially to keep pace with inflation. NIB has fielded a number of complaints from customers in this regard,” NIB said yesterday.

“NIB also advises that customers are only eligible for the unemployment benefit if they have at least 52 contributions filed with NIB and meet the contribution criteria. Customers are ineligible for the unemployment benefit if they are age 65 years or older. NIB has noted the increase in complaints with respect to unemployment payments and advises that a team has been established to review each complaint received and to advise customers accordingly. This process is in addition to our normal customer feedback channels.

“Claimants are asked to contact to register their complaint. NIB also requests all claimants who have not yet received unemployment payments since submitting an application to contact NIB at urgently, so that NIB can bring resolution to your matter. If your claim is approved, NIB will pay the full period that you have been unemployed (up to 13 weeks) and you will continue to remain eligible for any government unemployment assistance extension.”

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