COVID-19 update and press conference at Ilaro Court – January 28, 2021. (PMO)

Government is open to providing financial assistance to the small business sector during the two-week national pause, and has cautioned that the information received from business owners will be verified. 

Minister of Energy, Small Busines and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds, made the announcement tonight, as he appealed to unregistered businesses to regularise their status during a press conference at Ilaro Court.

He shared that shops would receive $1,500 for the two-week period, while vendors would receive $500 for the same period.   

Minister Symmonds said watersports operators, barbers, beauty salons, nail technicians and taxi operators would also receive the cash injection.

Regarding taxi operators, the Minister made it clear that a meeting will be held with the transport sector as a whole to ensure that licensed taxi operators were still operating. He pointed out that this verification process also applied to the other sectors.

Mr. Symmonds said shopkeepers were identified based on the 1,444 liquor licences of a retail nature that were issued. 

“We have to try to find a way to work with those folks as well. Therefore, an approach is being worked through, where we will have the necessary meetings with that aspect of the community because we want to try as best as possible to meet people part of the way.” 

Small Business Minister, Kerrie Symmonds, speaking on government’s support for vendors during the lockdown.

He said there were approximately 1,500 registered vendors with the Barbados Association of Retailers and Vendors, the Supervisor of Markets through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, and the National Conservation Commission as beach vendors.  

The Small Business Minister also disclosed what would be done for vendors plying their trade on the highway since the last shutdown. 

“We have to try to find a way to work with those folks as well. Therefore, an approach is being worked through, where we will have the necessary meetings with that aspect of the community because we want to try as best as possible to meet people part of the way.” 

Additionally, Minister Symmonds said Cabinet had agreed that minimarts in rural districts, where there is no ease of access to supermarkets, will be allowed to open Monday to Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

“We are trying to intervene because we know that on the last occasion there was a shut down of Barbados, the circumstances were that people could go into the community and use village shops. The reality is that COVID-19 has now spawned new variants. One such variant is identified as the United Kingdom variant. We need to be very realistic about what we have seen and learnt by way of experience in the United Kingdom,” he stated.

Minister of Small Busines and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds, revealed that Government is open to providing financial assistance to the small business sector during the two-week national pause for COVID-19. (PMO)

The Small Business Minister continued: “COVID-19 is now killing people over there at the rate of over 1,500 people a day. That variant is highly infectious; it is highly contagious. For those obvious reasons, in the set of circumstances in Barbados where our population is very dense where people are living in housing units with a very dense population, and in some units, there is a density of population as well; we have to be very careful that we do not allow this disease, especially if it is that particular strain or variant of the disease to run away in our small communities in Barbados. 

“Because of the fact that shops tend also to be liming places, we are doing our best to have a set of circumstances for two weeks where people reduce their foot print and are not going to be encouraged in any way to be moving about the district they live in, even under the pretext of going to the shop to get something from the shop which turns out to be a 10-minute lime by the side of the shop.”

Additionally, he revealed that vegetable vendors would be approached by Government to provide produce for the care packages to be distributed to the most vulnerable in the society.

He urged small entrepreneurs to reach out and register with the Ministry of Commerce at commerce.smallbusiness@barbados.gov.bb.

Minister Symmonds said staff from the Ministry would be monitoring the email address over the weekend, and the information would be forwarded to the Ministry of Finance early next week, to “begin the process of offering people financial assistance”.

julie.carrington@barbados.gov.bb

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