In the four months following the shutdown of the economy due to the impact of COVID-19, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) has paid $70.6 million to approximately 29,000 claimants for unemployment benefit.
Acting Director of the NIS, Jennifer Hunte, said the number of termination certificates received during that period represented approximately three years of unemployment benefit claims in a few months.
“During the period March 23, 2020 to July 31, 2020, the National Insurance Department received 60,623 termination certificates and paid $70.6 million to 28,950 unemployment benefit claimants. We also have to take into consideration that some claimants received multiple termination certificates. These would represent various extensions of the expected dates to resume work as indicated by their employers,” she said.
The National Insurance Office (NIO) received an average of 11,000 unemployment claims on a yearlybasis for the last three years.
The acting Director added that while the volume of claims has been significant, the staff have accepted the challenge and have worked diligently to ensure that claimants receive their unemployment benefit.
She noted: “The Board, Management and Staff are committed to ensuring that all qualified claimants receive their benefits. While to date we were able to facilitate the payment of unemployment benefits to a large number of claimants, we are working assiduously to ensure that all remaining qualifying unemployment claims are paid.”
The acting Director also explained that there were still several persons who had not received unemployment benefits for various reasons, including those who did not have the required number of contributions, who had not worked for 52 weeks, persons who had not completed the required declaration forms, those who had exhausted their eligibility, those persons whose forms contained limited or inaccurate information, and those whose earnings schedules were incorrectly completed.
The National Insurance Department has also been inundated with a large volume of telephone calls, a matter which the acting Director said is being addressed.
Mrs. Hunte explained: “We are very aware that many of you have been frustrated that you have not been able to reach us as easily as you would have liked due to unprecedented call volumes and for this we sincerely apologise.
“Please be assured that we continue to process your unemployment benefits as well as the other benefit types including payment to over 40,000 pensioners. We have been working on ways that you can reach us faster and will be making some improvements to facilitate such.”
During this period, persons may reach the NIO at the additional contact numbers and e-mail addresses posted on the NIO’s official website and social media pages.
“Please ensure that you put your e-mail address and telephone numbers on your termination certificate so that we can contact you quickly if necessary.
“We do apologise for any inconvenience caused to you our valued customers and we thank you for your continued patience and co-operation as we work together to ensure your remaining benefits are paid as quickly as possible,” she said.