Worry abounds as clock winds down on govt assistance

As the government’s additional 13 weeks of funding for the unemployment benefit comes to an end, some recipients are unsure how they will continue to make ends meet.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that the government will determine what will happen with the unemployment benefit program by the end of the month.

The program is funded until the end of September.

“We are always making plans, but of course the situation is fluid and so as we go forward, depending on the circumstances, we would have to make decisions,” Turnquest said.

“One thing that is clear is that we will not exceed our overall spending budget deficit of $1.3 billion. And, so, whatever has to happen will happen in that context.”

Georgette Simms, a former Baha Mar employee and a mother of three, said it would be a national crisis if the government is unable to continue its extended unemployment assistance.

“The household basically relies on me,” Simms said.

“The couple of dollars I’m getting from the government right now do not even suffice. I applied to Social Services for extra assistance, but I haven’t gotten any word on that. When you stop this funding, what’s next? What are we going to do? This will be a real problem.”

Simms said she is aware that the government’s resources are limited, but indicated that they must find another avenue to help the Bahamian people.

“I understand they may not be able to render any more assistance, but they just need to find a way,” she said.

“It’s going to be even a heavier load because some people are just taking the couple dollars that NIB (National Insurance Board) is giving and just trying to make ends meet with that. But now when you take that away, the lines are going to get ridiculous at Social Services. We’re supposed to be social distancing and all that. You could imagine the crowd that is going to be at Social Services once this stops? They have to come up with another plan.”

Turnquest said in the House of Assembly last week that there were 28,478 people who benefited from the assistance.

However, with unemployment in The Bahamas exceeding 40 percent, according to Director of Labour John Pinder, many Bahamians not in the position to feed themselves are looking forward to more assistance from the government.

K’Entae Mackey, who is a young mother of one, said although she is receiving assistance from the government, her struggle continues, and stopping it will only make the situation worse.

“Ain’t like our rent getting cut down,” Mackey said.

“I just paid my daughter’s school fees. I can’t rob her of that. These are her fundamental years. I still have to provide for my family.”

Mackey said with so many people unemployed, the government has to make preparations to ensure that Bahamians can begin returning to work.

“They need to find another funding,” she said.

“They have to figure out a situation where they can actually open the country where people can really go back to work who need to go to work. A lot of people out there are already out of work and if NIB stops they won’t have anything. I have expenses. If that’s all I’m depending on, then what you expect?”

Jannet Lockhart, who was laid off in March, said while she is not in a dire situation, the government assistance must go on because it helps pay her bills.

“If the government assistance comes to a halt, we will be in a dilemma,” Lockhart said.

“There is no way that people can make things happen right now. I collect from NIB. I am not able to pay the whole bill off. I am just able to put a little here and a little there. I may be able to find two cents, but the person down the road may not know where the next meal is coming from if this is stopped.”

The former hotel worker said the government must come up with another plan to assist its citizens.

“I honestly can’t afford to take it on,” Lockhart said.

“I can’t sit down and stress about it, worrying when this will stop and worrying when that will stop. I can only hope for the best situation.”

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Italia Clarke

Italia Clarke joined the Nassau Guardian in August 2020. Clarke covers national, human interest and social issues. Education: University of The Bahamas, BA in Media Journalism

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