Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley. (FP)

The National Insurance Department has already paid out over $52 million to qualifying claimants who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This disclosure came from Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley on Saturday night as she addressed the Virtual GEM Awards to celebrate the 53rd Anniversary of the National Insurance Scheme.

Ms. Mottley told her audience that within recent months, the National Insurance Department had endured the greatest test in its existence, and some of the funds it manages were currently under pressure.

“Across a typical year, you may receive less than ten thousand claims spread through the year. In just 12 weeks, to the 19th of June of this year, 50,196 termination certificates were received, which converted to approximately 35,000 unemployment benefit claims. As of the same date, over 90 per cent of qualifying claimants have received payments totalling over $52 million….

“A new advance payment process was rapidly developed to get out the payments faster than normal, and within these short 12 weeks, new benefits to members, like the one I introduced called the Business Interruption Benefit for self-employed workers, were developed; rolled out; processed and paid,” she stated.

Ms. Mottley said Government had supported the Scheme, and urged those not contributing to it, to do so now.  She noted that the contributions were affordable and the benefits “absolutely critical and necessary”, especially in these times.

“I make the solemn pledge tonight that no matter how well the Scheme has endured its greatest test, the Government of Barbados stands fully, unflinchingly, unequivocally, behind this Scheme.

“But the Scheme’s future success depends on all of Barbados getting behind it. For a great many, the scheme has shown that it is there for you, for your future. But we all need you to be there for the Scheme as well. Regrettably, too many still do not make their contribution. Too many are now regretting the absence of that contribution today, and I trust that they will remember this moment in time,” she stated.

The Prime Minister said the department’s crucial role had been highlighted by the pandemic and called it the society’s spear and shield, and the economy’s critical supply line and reinforcement. 

She proffered the view that the theme of the celebration: NIS – The Lifeline Serving and Securing the Nation, aptly described the expectation of the population and the reality of applicants who needed some form of income replacement.

Ms. Mottley praised and thanked the hardworking staff of the department for their selflessness during this difficult period.

She pointed out that the significant increase in claims had called for an “all-hands-on-deck” approach, with them working beyond the call of duty to have the benefit payments made as quickly as possible.

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