More than 9,000 unemployment benefit claims valued at $4.5 million will be paid out this week through special arrangements the National Insurance Board (NIB) has made with companies, Minister of National Insurance and Public Service Brensil Rolle said.
Rolle said because of the large volume of unemployment benefit claims submitted to the board, NIB has brokered a deal with large companies that are able to cover the costs of their laid off employees’ salaries up front, in exchange for a credit.
“NIB has received nearly 18,000 emails with claim forms and other information to process. We have organized 60 persons to register these claims and to organize these documents, which were received from both the employers and the employees. It should be noted that NIB currently processes between 6,000 and 7,000 applications in a year. Now, we are challenged, today, to process thousands in just one day. NIB had to innovate, so, it concluded special arrangements with companies to pay unemployment benefits on NIB’s behalf to their eligible laid off workers in two-week segments,” he said.
“For many of these companies they will receive a contribution payment credit based on the amount that they would have paid to eligible staff. [T]hrough other special arrangements, NIB will be paying almost 9,500 persons their unemployment benefit claim this week at an estimated cost of $4.5 million for the two-week period. We are advised that the audit process is near completion, so payment should be dispersed to 9,500 persons in a quick fashion.”
This arrangement, according to Rolle, allows NIB to maintain its core objective “to pay people quicker”.
He said NIB has made this arrangement with 20 large companies and anticipates that 14,000 to 15,000 people can be paid through this method.
“And, if this is done, all of these individuals will be paid in the quickest possible time. These special arrangements have allowed NIB regular staff to focus on claims from those companies, which are not current with the board. NIB staff are working with these companies to update their C10 applications, so that their former staff can qualify for NIB assistance. NIB assures all customers that, notwithstanding their former employer’s arrears, they can still be eligible for unemployment benefits,” Rolle said.
At $1.7 billion, NIB’s fund is poised to support the heavy demands of benefit claims due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Rolle said the board must brace itself for even more significant drawdowns.
“The benefits paid by NIB are already outstripping the contributions and income to NIB since 2016. After just feeling the effects of Dorian, the board is now in a place where it must brace itself for a major drawdown of its resources. The drawdown is to the tune of at least $16 million per month, above what was normally budgeted by the board. We are prepared for increased sickness benefits payouts as a result of the quarantine and as a result of the isolation by the Ministry of Health,” he said.
“NIB had prepared a five-year strategic plan, but this crisis has brought us to a point where we had to implement some of the things that we had planned for the future. I want Bahamians to know that NIB is coming to their rescue, the government of The Bahamas is coming to their rescue at this time. I urge every single Bahamian to pay his contribution to the board, so that we can, in times like these, offer our service to the Bahamian people.”