Government has so far paid out $11.19 million in unemployment benefits for a four-week period to 10,989 people who submitted unemployment claims to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley pledged Government’s support to ensuring that the NIS remains the lifeline for Barbadians during an address to the nation on Wednesday night.
Ms. Mottley revealed that as of Monday, April 27, the NIS had received 29,076 new claims for unemployment and that figure could rise.
The Prime Minister pointed out that her team had worked hard to remove the “red tape” to ensure that the payments were not delayed to claimants.
Ms. Mottley said the Government will support the NIS whether through existing funds held at the Central Bank of Barbados from loans already received under policy-based lending, or by purchasing bonds held by the NIS to the tune of $250 million.
“The economic team will settle which method it prefers in the few days. But in essence, if we go that way, we would prepay the NIS early bonds and finance it through the issuance of a Pandemic Solidarity Bond to allow the NIS to lay forward without anyway affecting the deficit, but at the same time meeting the needs of almost 30,000 Barbadians that are claiming unemployment benefits,” Ms. Mottley underlined.
Allaying fears about the future of the Fund, the Prime Minister said the NIS has enough assets to meet the demands, but cautioned that many of these assets were not liquid in the right divisions.
She explained that the Severance Payment Fund was a healthy $140 million, while the Unemployment Benefit was down to $19 million and was in danger of being “exhausted any minute now”.