National Insurance Board (NIB) Director Dr. Nicola Virgill-Rolle said yesterday that $16.84 million in unemployment benefits have been paid out to over 20,000 people since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NIB has also paid out a further $2.6 million to over 5,000 self-employed people, said Virgill-Rolle while appearing as a guest on the Guardian Talk Radio show “Morning Blend” with host Dwight Strachan.
“We have paid out so far, [for] unemployment benefit, that is the normal portion of the NIB program where you pay into it for employed persons, we’ve paid out some 20,672 people already,” Virgill-Rolle said.
“We have estimated about 1,500 more in process and we have about 4,000 or so claims where we are doing our review of contribution records. And so, those are the ones that are outstanding that we’re getting to and will get to very quickly.”
While noting that normally self-employed people do not receive unemployment benefits, she said the benefit program is “not something that self-employed persons would have paid into”.
“They did not pay the additional one percent for the unemployment insurance benefit, and so we would have already processed and approved 5,481 of those applications,” she said.
“We have denied 1,900 of those and generally the reasons are [they] have not provided the requisite information…
“We paid out for that program $2.6 million already, and for the unemployment benefit program we’ve already paid out $16.84 million. And these are recurring payments.”
As the state of emergency that began on March 18 was extended to May 30, thousands of Bahamians remain unemployed.
Many have also claimed that they have not received any update from NIB on the status of their unemployment benefit application.
Virgill-Rolle acknowledged that some people who applied were found out to be ineligible due to not having made sufficient contributions.
However, when asked what assistance is available for those who are ineligible, she said that they may reach out to the Department of Social Services.
“We have a few dynamics happening where we have to do some contribution checks on people, and unfortunately some claimants are not able to benefit because they do not have sufficient payments into the system,” Virgill-Rolle said.
She added, “National Insurance is not an assistance program.
“We insure part of your income, and there are eligibility requirements in order to benefit. It’s a benefit program. And so, for those persons, they are being informed that they do not meet the requirements and that they are disallowed… There are other assistance, social services, that they can take advantage of.”