If nothing changes, the National Insurance Board (NIB) can only afford to continue paying out unemployment benefits until mid-September, Minister of Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle said yesterday.
Rolle said NIB paid out $112 million in unemployment benefits, and the government expects to spend $74 million on its unemployment programs by then.
“We have until September,” said Rolle, who appeared as a guest on the Guardian Radio 96.9 FM talk show “The Hitback” with host Nahaja Black.
“And $200 million would have been spent or burnt in that exercise.”
Rolle added, “The Ministry of Finance is looking now to see where they could get some additional funding and support. But, again, if the thousands of individuals don’t get work or don’t return to work, there will be issues.”
Rolle said NIB typically only pays $8 million per year in unemployment benefit.
“No company could be sustainable at this level and at this pace,” he said.
“We’re hoping we could just deal with COVID, to make sure that persons are safe. We want to get individuals back to work because, like I said, we’ve spent over $110 million.
“…On average, we spend roughly $8 million a year on unemployment systems. We have [paid] now, [at] last count about $112 million in unemployment assistance.
“And we know, based on the numbers that we asked the government for, it’s going to cost the government, in addition to NIB, it’s going to cost the government $74 million to do their program.
“…So, when you combine both, you’re talking about spending close to $200 million. And this money certainly was not budgeted for. It is unanticipated spending.”
Rolle said that while NIB has money, it is not all liquid, and a lot of it has been “invested”.
“It’s not that NIB doesn’t have any more money, but you are also aware that NIB money has been invested in government projects, government buildings,” he said.
When asked why NIB contributions are being spent on government projects instead of ensuring benefits can be paid out, Rolle said NIB guarantees that Bahamians will get whatever benefits they are owed.
“NIB has assured you that whatever money is owed to you, you will get,” he said.
“We have gone beyond that. We have said to persons who are employed today that if you gave your monies to an employer and a payment was not made by the employer to NIB, you will not be disadvantaged. You will still get your benefit from NIB and NIB is then obligated to go after the employer who has not made the contribution that he has taken from you.”
He said COVID-19 has taught NIB that “every single cent that you get on behalf of the Bahamian people, they are obligated to get and they are obligated to receive the benefit”.