Trinidad Gov’t Announces $1 Billion COVID-19 Stimulus Package

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – Citizens of this county who lose their jobs as a result of the measures being put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 will be able to access a Salary Relief Grant of $1,500 a month for the next three months, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced yesterday.

The grant is expected to help over 80,000 citizens and will cost taxpayers around $400 million, Imbert said during a press conference where Government unveiled several measures being put in a place as part of a billion-dollar plan to help cushion the economic impact of the stringent action being taken to battle COVID-19.

In all, the Government is expected to need around $9 billion to address the country’s current economic situation, including the dramatic fall in oil prices and the arrival of the virus on our shores.

Imbert also announced sweeping measures to help businesses and individuals cope in the face of harsh economic times expected as a result of the COVID-19 fallout.

“The most important measure, however, that the team has decided is necessary, is a Salary Relief grant because we recognise that because of the measures that are being taken and because of the issues associated with this pandemic that there will be persons who will be unemployed and what we have chosen to do, we have decided that individuals who have been temporarily unemployed or temporarily displaced as a result of the prevailing situation will be eligible for a grant of up to $1,500 per month for a three-month period,” Imbert said.

Social Development and Family Services Minister Camille Robinson-Regis added, however, that Venezuelans who have been working here and lose their jobs will not be entitled to this grant.

Imbert said he anticipates individuals employed in the food and beverage, hospitality and entertainment sectors may be adversely affected by some of the decisions taken to help stop the virus’ spread. He said last week he had a discussion with several of this country’s business chambers and called on them to have their members keep people employed for at least four weeks.

Imbert said the Salary Relief Grant will be administered through the National Insurance Board (NIB).

“The reason why we are using the National insurance Board is because they have a database on all persons within the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system, which is hundreds of thousands of persons,” Imbert said.

“So since NIB has all the data on all these people already, where they work and so on, who they are, identification documents with respect to these people, we felt the best thing to do is to use the NIB.”

The Government will supply the funding to the NIB, he said.

Imbert said the details and the qualification criteria for the grant will be decided over the next seven days.

“We recognise that people will be going through hardship in this period and we thought as a Government, we had to do this,” Imbert said.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley also said while the NIB and its database is being used, the Government knows that there will be people who will not be on the NIB list who may apply for the grant.

“And one of the reasons for that would be persons who would not have been complying and what this situation will do is those persons who are not on the list and were employed and are now not covered or identified on the NIB list that says something for and about the employer but such persons can approach the Ministry of Social Development for that social development assistance but that action will identify persons who should have been on the NIB record,” Rowley said.