With COVID-19 rendering thousands of Bahamians unemployed, Minister of Public Service and National Insurance Brensil Rolle said yesterday he is unsure of the sustainability of the National Insurance Board’s (NIB) unemployment payments.
Since the pandemic brought the Bahamian economy to a halt, NIB is paying out an extra $16 million each month, Rolle noted. He said 30,000 people are being assisted through NIB’s unemployment program and another 7,000 through the government’s program for self-employed and tourism workers.
He said the board is operating on a month-to-month basis.
“We’re taking it one month at a time,” he said outside Cabinet.
“We know it’s an obligation to provide individuals with unemployment assistance because that is how the fund was made. We are in constant conversation with all of the players in the game.
“I can’t tell you it can be sustained for a year, but what I can tell you is based on what we’re seeing now, we’re getting out the payments in time. We’ve made payments to over 30,000 individuals. We are processing another 5,000 to 6,000 that will be processed and paid this week.”
Rolle said NIB has the capacity to continue paying out benefits to those affected for now.
While there are nearly 40,000 people currently receiving unemployment benefits, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has predicted unemployment could climb to 30 percent.
Asked if NIB is prepared to handle that, Rolle said: “We’re doing our best.
“We made a commitment to the Bahamian people.”
While Rolle insisted payments have been timely, many people have complained that they have yet to receive anything from NIB despite having applied weeks ago.
Asked about those claims, Rolle said another 6,000 will receive checks this week. He said things have been slowed down due to issues with getting the necessary information from applicants.
“What the issue is is persons have not been providing us with the appropriate information so that we could speed up the process,” he said.