Of the tens of thousands of people from Grand Bahama and Abaco estimated to be impacted by Hurricane Dorian, 900 have claimed unemployment benefits, the National Insurance Board (NIB) confirmed yesterday.
“As at about Thursday of last week…we had 900 persons who had submitted claims in respect to unemployment benefit. That’s the biggest one. We continue to do maternity and sickness, but unemployment was the biggest,” said Pandora Butler, chief manager in the office of the director at NIB.
“We expected that because a lot of people now would be without jobs, they may be terminated because the jobs are no longer available, or may just be laid off while the employers are rebuilding. So, we expected high unemployment and we prepared for it.”
Immediately following the passage of the Category 5 storm, NIB implemented a one-stop shop at its Baillou Hill Road headquarters with the Department of Labour to accommodate the registering of unemployed survivors into the labor force database at the same time the unemployment claims are made.
“Labour came to accommodate our people so they wouldn’t have to go to any of the other offices. So, they came there and were able to register with Labour to get a job and then just walk a couple of steps into our customer service area and make their claims,” Butler said.
As a result of the storm, NIB has accelerated the processing of claims for persons from the affected islands.
“They’ve separated the areas. They have now two areas within the local claims processing areas. One unit is charged specifically with the processing of claims for those two affected islands and, of course, we have to continue with the other claims. Because some people may say I did not live in Grand Bahama and Abaco, but I need my maternity benefit, my unemployment benefit, my sickness benefit just as badly as anybody else and so we’re proving that we can walk and chew gum,” Butler said.
“A part of the unemployment claims process you need the employer to confirm for us that the person was in fact terminated or laid off and no longer has income coming in. That became difficult as a result of the hurricane because a lot of the records were destroyed and a lot of the employers were displaced. We have employers who have gone as far as Canada and the U.S. and so, that was a challenge for us. How are we going to get confirmation in the form of the B-80 which is the layoff certificate? So, we made it possible so that the employer can email us those records.
“We have a special site, nibcares.com and the compliance office is involved in that so that the employers can email and give us a list of the persons who were up to the hurricane employed with them.”
The unemployment benefit is a payment made to eligible, insured persons who are unemployed but actively looking for employment. It is paid at a weekly rate of 50 percent of the unemployed worker’s average weekly insurable income and is paid so long as unemployment continues to a maximum period of 13 weeks within a 52-week period, according to NIB’s website.
NIB, the social safety net of The Bahamas, caters to 144,000 employees and pays out roughly $285 million in benefits per year, while only taking in about $280 million in contributions annually.