NIB expects 15,000 to sign on for benefits

By Khrisna Russell

Tribune Chief Reporter

DEPARTMENT of Labour director John Pinder expects that around 15,000 people affected by the tourism sector shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic will register to receive National Insurance Board benefits.

So far, only a fraction of these workers have registered with the department, with Mr Pinder telling The Tribune yesterday the process has been sluggish.

This is due to many people having a challenge with the online application and a need to streamline the process.

“We are still compiling information and doing the registration now, but for the most part these are persons who are affected by this COVID-19 layoff. But these persons aren’t really terminated, they are laid off,” Mr Pinder told The Tribune.

“If this thing doesn’t turn around in the coming weeks then we may be facing a bunch of people being terminated or given severance packages. But as it stands people are just being (temporarily) laid off.”

He continued: “Persons are registering in order to get the unemployment benefit from NIB. They register through us first and then they go to NIB.

“So initially we had over 1,000 who registered. But we are looking at least 15,000 people to register. In the first couple of days, I think we were able to do close to 2,000, but we had to shut down and some persons are challenged with doing things online so we set up a Facebook page trying to make it easier for them to follow the steps.”

The process has also been made easier as registrants no longer need to be issued a card from the Department of Labour to submit to NIB. Now labour officials forward the information electronically to NIB to verify a person’s status.

On Sunday, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said the temporary unemployment rate could now probably be above 30 percent and was expected to grow, due to widespread hotel closures.

Baha Mar, Sandals, Atlantis and the Melia resorts have all over the last week announced their planned suspension of operations. Some of the resorts intend to pay staff a fraction of their salaries during the difficult time.

“Every single hotel if they have not so declared (that they are shutting down), are probably heading in that direction as the world closes its borders and shuts down,” Mr D’Aguilar said Sunday. “This is going to be grim.”