The National Insurance Board (NIB) has paid out in excess of $50 million from its fund since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of National Insurance and Public Service Brensil Rolle said during his contribution to the 2020/2021 budget debate yesterday.
Of that amount, $38.1 million was paid out in 62,048 disbursements of NIB unemployment benefit expedited claims to 24,917 applicants.
“NIB has spent to date over $50 million of its money in a very short period, two months. And so Bahamians should be and I believe they are comfortable,” Rolle said in the House of Assembly yesterday.
NIB also paid out $9,084,705 million to 6,763 applicants of the government’s Unemployment Assistance Programme for self-employed persons negatively impacted by the closing of the economy during the pandemic.
“It is estimated that more than 40,000 workers have either been interrupted, or there has been some suspension from their earnings in the past three months and this is due totally to COVID-19,” he said.
“NIB’s main objective and primary focus therefore for the past seven weeks has been to make sure that claims from these persons that were unemployed and that are still unemployed, that these claims were processed in the fastest and the quickest possible way.”
Mass layoffs incurred throughout the country as a result of the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the normal unemployment benefits, the government allocated in excess of $10 million to assist self-employed Bahamians who would not have been eligible to receive the benefit.
Another major focus of NIB, according to Rolle, was to pay out pensions earlier than normal.
To that effect, Rolle said NIB paid out $67 million over the course of the state of emergency that came into effect in mid-March.
“We started the process by simply taking the carefully considered position that we have to do something to help persons that may have been impacted by COVID-19. And so we determined that our first step would be that we would pay pensions a little earlier than the prescribed date,” he said.
“And so in the last few months we have made available to Bahamians their pensions at an earlier date, therefore NIB has put approximately $67 million in early pension payments so that individual families could carry on their way of life.”