Prime Minister and Minister of People Empowerment, Dr. the Hon. Timothy Harris, while updating the nation about the measures government is taking to support workers, homeowners, businesses, and farmers as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic at his monthly press conference held Tuesday at the Ocean Terrace Inn’s conference room, thanked the St. Christopher and Nevis Social Board for establishing a special fund to assist those who will be impacted.
“Employees who contract the virus and for whom contributions were made would be eligible for Social Security benefits,” said Prime Minister Harris. “The Social Security Board in this regard will establish a special fund of about $15 million to assist with income support up to a maximum of $1,000 per month for workers whose income would have been impacted by COVID-19.”
Registered self-employed persons who can show that they have been impacted would also qualify for this support, advised Dr. Harris. The fund will take into consideration persons who are part of the registered self-employed category workers by the Social Security Board.
On behalf of the country, Prime Minister Harris thanked the Board of Directors of Social Security for being part of the plan to create a package of support to mitigate the negative social and economic impact of the pandemic.
“Under your Government’s leadership, the Social Security Board has responded in a very responsible way, and I must thank my Senior Minister and Minister of Social Security, the Hon. Vance Amory, who in fact would have intervened with the Board to ensure this timely response,” said Prime Minister Harris.
Senior Minister and Minister of Labour, the Honourable Vance Amory, said that the Department of Labour and the St. Christopher and Nevis Social Security Board will assist in ensuring that persons who qualify for the temporary relief measures for workers impacted by COVID-19 can get the help that they need.
“Let’s take, for example, a cleaner at a hotel, who may now have one day or two days work and end up perhaps getting $700 at the end of the month, the Social Security initiative will top that up by $300, ensuring that that person will not receive less than $1,000,” Dr. Harris explained during a virtual town hall meeting later that evening.
This relief measure will run for three months in the first instance.
Senior Minister Amory said that officials from the Department of Labour are contacting various companies to get the names and other relevant details of employees who would have been laid off or assigned reduced working hours due to the impact of COVID-19.
“We are not opening the flood gates for persons who feel or believe they want a benefit. It has to be persons who have suffered loss of income as a result of this crisis and therefore we are going through this very systematically to make certain that we get the names …,” the senior minister indicated. “Social Security will provide the necessary background work so that … the names can be entered into the system, and they can then receive the benefit.”
Some of the measures relating to relief for workers came as a result of a meeting convened last week by Senior Minister Amory in his capacity as Minister of Labour. The meeting was attended by officials from the Department of Labour and the Ministry of Finance as well as the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Manufacturing Association, St. Kitts-Nevis Trades and Labour Union, and the St. Kitts Teachers Union.
At the meeting, a stimulus package for businesses impacted by the coronavirus was also discussed. Prime Minister Harris’ announcement on Tuesday also incorporated a reduction in corporation tax for April to June, as well as other relief measures.
Senior Minister Amory said that the comprehensive relief package was well thought out and is reflective of the government’s priority to empower all residents while practicing good governance and accountability.
He added that it was important for persons to remain calm and focussed during the coming days and weeks. The senior minister said that the creative, groundbreaking economic package should help to inspire residents to adopt more responsible lifestyles.
The Social Scrutiny Board was set up largely to support the workers or their beneficiaries in the times of greatest need, and such times include times of sickness, maternity, employment injury, infirmity and death. Dr. Harris noted that during a pandemic like the current COVID-19, the country’s workers are most vulnerable, and they suffer significant loss in income.