Sunday 5 July, 2020

38,000 apply for Salary Relief Grant

Applications for the monthly $1,500 Salary Relief Grant have been pouring in since the forms were made available online and at police stations.

The grant, which will be administered through the National Insurance Board of Trinidad and Tobago (NIBTT), is meant to provide relief to citizens who have suffered a loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic for a period of up to three months.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert at Thursday’s Post Cabinet media briefing revealed that around 38,000 online and physical applications have been received and are under review by the Finance Ministry’s Project Administration Unit.

Breaking down the figures, Imbert indicated that 4,161 hand-delivered applications were received through drop boxes at the 15 TTPost locations – 13 in Trinidad and 2 in Tobago.

Through the online facility, 34,000 applications were received.

“What I can say is that the ratio of online applications to physical hand-delivered applications is about 94:6,” the Finance Minister said.

Imbert said these applications are being evaluated in batches and in approximately two weeks’ time, disbursements of grants will begin.

He assured that the process has been incident-free thus far.

“I’ve had no complaints from police stations or from TTPost offices in terms of the collections of the forms at the police stations or the deposit of the forms at the TTPost outlets.”

“From all reports I’ve received over the last several days that has gone extremely smoothly with no confusion whatsoever.”

Government has set aside some $400 million for the grant, which covers payments for the months of April, May and June.

Around 80,000 people are estimated to have faced job losses when the first public health regulations were introduced.

The Minister said should this number increase and more support become necessary, he would approach the Prime Minister and Cabinet for approval.

“This is an evolving situation, these decisions are not cast in stone. As we see the applications come in, I may have to go to Cabinet or consult with the Prime Minister… and see how many we can accommodate.

We have already set aside $400 million for this… and we may in fact be dealing with more. But, as these numbers come in we will deal with them. We are going to deal with every application in terms of the criteria that was set out – that you must have lost your job because of health and safety measures that have been taken by the Government.”

Asked about the Income Support Grant being made available through the Social Development Ministry, Imbert said this grant will assist those not in the NIB system.

He indicated that he has had discussions with Minister Camille Robinson-Regis to harmonise the work of the units dealing with both grants.

“It is my proposal that we harmonise so that there’s flow of information and cross fertilisation between the two units doing the evaluation and distribution of the income support grants. But, the income support grants are already out and those are to deal with outside of the NIS net.”

Explaining why relief was only proposed for a period of just three months, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said that this was based on advice from experts studying the virus.

He said while Government will continue to be guided by the science regarding COVID-19 as it creates relevant policies, experts have noted that the virus may continue to disrupt lives and economies for as long as 18 months.

“We cater for three months, using all the resources we can draw up and we are hoping that by the end of three months we should be in a position that is better than the beginning.”

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