Sunday 7 June, 2020

COVID-19: Tax refunds, salary relief grant to soften economic fallout

Government has announced additional fiscal and social measures to assist citizens whose livelihoods have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fiscal measures announced by Finance Minister Colm Imbert at a media conference on Monday include the payment of VAT refunds, income tax refunds, and a Salary Relief Grant.

The Government currently owes $6,225,617,665 in VAT refunds to more than 10,000 registered companies.

Imbert explained that the Government will pay, from the Ministry of Finance’s funds, all people owed income tax refunds of $20,000 or less, "next week". This is expected to cost the State around $110 million.

The Minister also assured that the Government will pay VAT refunds to those owed up to $250,000 by the following week. This, Imbert said, will cost Government approximately $280 million.

"I can tell you we are going to do this... next week we will pay everybody who has a tax refund due to them, of $20,000 or less - that's 9,397 persons - and everybody who has a VAT refund owed of $250,000 or less, next week, in cash."

VAT bonds, he said, will be paid in April. This will cost Government $3 billion.

Imbert also announced the introduction of a Salary Relief Grant, which will assist those who have lost their jobs, are temporarily out of work or have reduced income.

The $1,500 monthly grant will be available to those who qualify for up to three months.

The funds will be made available through the National Insurance Board (NIB).

The grant is expected to cost Government some $400 million.

Collectively, the measures announced by the Minister will cost the State $1 billion.

As part of its Liquidity Support Programme, Imbert announced that Government will be giving $100 million to credit unions for special loans. The Minister indicated that this will allow them to provide loans to their members at favourable interest rates with a long repayment period beginning after the effects of COVID-19 have ended.

Also at the briefing was Social Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis who announced measures for temporary assistance to vulnerable persons with their food bill and the payment of rent.

Through the Rental Assistance Grant, households in which the wage earner lost their income or suffered a pay cut will have access to up to $2,500 monthly for an initial three months, but no more than six months.

In terms of food support, Robinson-Regis noted that for households where the main income was affected, food cards with a value of $510 will be provided for three months.

The Minister also reiterated that additional funds will be given to people already receiving food support for an initial period of three months as follows:

⦁ $150 for households up to 3 persons

⦁ $300 for households with 45 persons

⦁ $450 for households with 6 and more persons

The initiatives will be processed through the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services.

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