The government is making special accommodations for self-employed workers in the tourism industry – like straw vendors, tour operators and jet ski operators – who may face reduced income as a result of global travel restriction and warnings in the wake of the global outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said the government is allocating $10 million to provide for temporary unemployment benefits to those individuals who would normally not qualify for the social safety net from the National Insurance Board (NIB).
“Self-employed persons, such as straw vendors, tour operators and Jet Ski operators, do not ordinarily qualify for the National Insurance unemployment benefit as part of their benefits package. However, the government is making a special accommodation for those self-employed individuals in the tourism industry, given the unprecedented COVID-19 impact,” Turnquest said in the House of Assembly yesterday.
“For persons in this category, the government will offer a sponsored unemployment assistance of $200 per week, for up to eight weeks. To qualify, these self-employed persons must be currently registered with NIB or they must register at the time of application for this benefit. The time frame for this benefit may be adjusted according to need.”
NIB released its COVID-19 policy earlier this week, outlining how the board intends to provide for workers facing suspended income due to the coronavirus.
In addition to unemployment benefits, eligible workers are also entitled to sickness benefits if they are exposed to the virus.
In reference to the policy, Turnquest said, “Under the normal provisions of the NIB insurance scheme, individuals who contract COVID-19 or are quarantined because of exposure or suspected exposure, will be eligible for sickness benefits. And, individuals who are temporarily laid off because of the economic impacts of COVID-19, will be eligible for unemployment benefits, up to the regular thirteen-week period, if necessary.”
To qualify for the sickness benefit, eligible workers must have paid at least 40 contributions, with 13 having been paid in the 13 weeks immediately before the illness started, or 26 having been paid in the 52 weeks before the week the illness started.