COVID-19 update and press conference – March. 3, 2021. (PMO)

To date, the National Insurance Office has received over 50,000 unemployment claims since March 2020.

This disclosure came from Chairman of the National Insurance Board, Leslie Haynes, during a COVID-19 Update and Press Conference entitled COVID-19: Your Workplace and You from Ilaro Court, this evening.

Mr. Haynes also provided additional information regarding the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) disbursements with respect to unemployment claims. 

“We at the National Insurance have paid in unemployment benefits to date, over BDS$155 million in claims. We have had approximately over 50,000 unemployment claims. Of course, the individual unemployment claims are about 38,000 persons, of which about regrettably 4,000 of those did not qualify, so that there were about 34,000 persons who have benefited from the Unemployment Fund,” the Chairman stated.

Stressing that the National Insurance Department has an important role to play in Social Security matters in Barbados, the Chairman pointed out that the department was not without its issues, mainly with regard to processing claims in a timely manner. 

He stated that since 2018, the department had been working to reduce the number of outstanding claims and to pay them in a timely manner.

“We were making headway, then lo and behold, COVID.  I think it’s fair to say, today that with the dedication of the Acting Director and the staff at the NIS that the outstanding claims today are just about the same amount as were outstanding before COVID…. Of course, claims have increased, so that tells me that the National Insurance Department has been working hard [and] diligently to ensure that claims are satisfied,” Mr. Haynes declared. 

The Chairman revealed that in an effort to process and pay unemployment claims in a timely manner during the last year, a solution was developed called Advance Payment Solution, where an applicant who was due two weeks’ payment received four weeks. 

“So that by doing so, you don’t have to come back so quickly, … and having waited for your two weeks’ claim, we gave you four.  I think today … when last I inquired of the Director, we are about $9 million out, having advanced those payments, but we are certain that in due course that sum will be repaid,” the Chairman explained.

Mr. Haynes noted that “it has not been easy” at the National Insurance Department, and complimented the staff for their efforts in helping it to withstand the “battering” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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