In addition to prioritizing all claims for those impacted by Hurricane Dorian, the National Insurance Board (NIB) is also releasing long-term benefit payments a week early, to keep money circulating in the economy in the wake of this disaster.
NIB Director Dr. Nicola Virgill-Rolle said those payments should be posted by Wednesday, in an effort to put income in the hands of those who would have lost everything in the devastating Category 5 storm and in the hands of other Bahamians who want to lend a helping hand.
“And also, with the earlier payments of the long-term benefits we know that many Bahamians will be called upon to help family members and so those payments should inject an additional $21 million into the economy one week earlier,” Virgill-Rolle told Guardian Business on Monday.
“Everyone will get their payments earlier. Nassuvians, wherever you are, we’re all linked and you may be wanting to help out or you’re buying things for family members, so we just put up the long-term benefit run. Most go through electronic payments in any case and we’re working out the logistics for those who would have received check payments or cash payments to understand if they are on New Providence or islands which we can deliver check or cash payments to.”
NIB is also waiving some of the fees and processes required to replace the NIB smart card that residents may have ultimately lost during the storm.
“We’re taking a comprehensive approach. So, one of the first things we’re looking at is how to replace IDs for persons who would have lost them. We have a relaxed approach to ensure that people can get their NIB smart cards issued to them,” Virgill-Rolle said.
“We’re working with persons who come in from Abaco and Grand Bahama in terms of waiving the fees for the issuance of the smart card and then also waiving all of the additional requirements like police records and all of those types of things in order to get the smart card. So, once you are in our system we will reissue the smart card generally. That’s going to be an important thing in helping people re-establish their lives.”
NIB currently has $1.7 billion in reserves, but in recent years has had to pay out more in benefits than is paid annually in contributions.
While she could not say by how much, Virgill-Rolle said NIB’s board is preparing for an impact on its reserve.
“We’re still working on those numbers but we do expect an impact in terms of, if you do take out two of your three largest economies – although New Providence is by far the driver, but you have Marsh Harbour, which was doing very well and Grand Bahama, so we expect some impact,” she said.
“Although we know these were much smaller than New Providence, which remains the engine of economic activity. And so, we are working our numbers and are preparing for some impact, but we can’t quantify it at this time. But we’re expecting some unemployment benefits to rise and we expect some impact on our contributions as persons are no longer employed.”