The St Kitts-Nevis government has outlined new measures to help persons affected by the coronavirus (pandemic), indicating that the new initiative is “separate and distinct” from the EC$120 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) stimulus package announced last year.
“We will implement an Income Support Programme in the amount of EC$15 million to alleviate hardships on our citizens who remain unemployed since March 2020 and are registered with the Social Security Board,” Prime Minister Dr Timothy announced.
He said that a monthly stipend of EC$1,000 will be paid for the next three months.
“However, persons who have already received more than EC$15,000 or more in severance payment after March 2020 would not now be eligible to access the Programme,” Harris added.
He said that people receiving assistance under the Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) would only be entitled to receive an additional EC$500 under the Income Support Programme, and persons already in receipt of a government stipend of EC$1,000 would not enjoy a further benefit of the same amount.
“We will waive commercial rent for six months (July to December 2021) for small businesses which lease space from the Government through the Ministry of Tourism and Transport.
“These would include small businesses that rent booths at the Ferry and Bus Terminals, the Amina Craft Market and the Pelican Mall. We encourage private sector landlords of commercial space to give some measure of relief to their tenants.
“We will further reduce the VAT (value added tax) rate for three months (July to September 2021) from 10 to five per cent on commercial rent for small businesses with 25 or less employees. To benefit you must have a valid business license,” the prime minister said.
He said provisions have also been put in place to assist passenger bus operators, who as a result of the COVID-19 protocols, were asked to reduce their established seating capacity by 50 per cent.
“We will reinstate the annual Import Duty exemption for 16 tyres (four tyres per quarter), four pairs of brake pads and three pairs of brake shoes for ‘H’ passenger buses. We will provide fuel subsidy of EC$400 per month to passenger bus operators for three months.”
The government has also announced that it will waive stall fees for vendors using the public market until December 31 and reduce travel tax for the next six months in an effort to boost visitor arrival, thereby creating more income earning opportunities for our taxi operators and other providers of hospitality services.
Harris said that recognising that women tend to suffer more abuse during difficult times, his administration will increase its support to battered women through the Ministry of Social Development, and over the next six months households with children who are differently abled will receive assistance in the form of a stipend.
According to the prime minister, the St Kitts Electricity Company (SKELEC) has also agreed to provide a deferral on residential electricity bills for the next three months.
“This Team Unity Government promised a stronger and safer future, and with God’s help we are determined to continue our progress in delivering on this promise even in the face of a global crisis that has crippled health systems and economies around the world.
“With God’s help we will overcome the impacts of this pandemic. I have outlined initiatives that we have designed to stimulate economic activity and provide economic relief to our citizens and residents.
“It is my view and it is the collective view of the Cabinet that these initiatives are comprehensive, targeted and they are far-reaching in terms of the transformation that they can bring,” said Harris.
St Kitts-Nevis, which recently announced a lockdown of the Federation in a bid to curb the spread of the COVID-19, has recorded 519 cases and three deaths from the virus.