by Linda Straker
- More than $17 million on various stimulus package measures
- Ministry of Finance allocated EC$40 million for payroll support
- Over 7,000 Grenadians benefitted thus far from economic stimulus package
Government has disbursed less than 50% of the EC$50 million Covid-19 Supplementary Estimates approved on 17 April 2020 by members of both the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament.
“Overall, government has expended more than $17 million on the various measures in the stimulus package, including income and payroll support, reduction in electricity bills for consumers and grants to the Grenada Development Bank to support the Small Business Development Fund and the Small Hoteliers Business Fund, which offers concessionary loans to help stimulate business activity,” said a news release issued by the Government Information Service (GIS).
Parliament held a special sitting in April to approval Covid-19 Supplementary Estimates after government declared a state of emergency with 24 hours curfew as part of measures to contain the spread of the virus. At the time of approving the estimates, it was announced in parliament that the support would be for a 3-month period.
Government established the Covid-19 Economic Support Secretariat to specifically implement and coordinate the measures included in the stimulus package. That office has continued to process and verify applications.
Of the EC$50 million, the Ministry of Finance, Planning, Economic and Physical Development was allocated EC$40 million for payroll support to hoteliers, restaurants and bars, small travel agents and income support to public buses, taxi drivers, tourist vendors, market vendors and other identified hospitality-based businesses; small hoteliers facility at GDB; Micro Small and Medium Enterprises soft lending facility at GDB; subsidising the 30% reduction in electricity to consumers rates for 3 months and assistance to other severely impacted groups.
The remaining EC$10 million was allocated to the Ministry of Health, Social Security and International Business for the procurement of any items related to the fight against Covid-19 such as medication, protective clothing and so on.
Providing an update on the disbursement of the stimulus package, the release said that more than 7,000 Grenadians have benefitted thus far from government’s economic stimulus package which offers payroll support to businesses, income support to self-employed persons and an unemployment benefit among other measures. “Statistics from the Covid-19 Economic Support Secretariat show that the beneficiaries include 664 bus operators and close to 500 persons involved in various aspects of tourism including taxi and tour operators and vendors. Payroll support has been provided for 137 businesses, which collectively employ more than 3,000 workers.” The release listed the names of businesses which received assistance. However, Press Secretary, Philomena Robertson, assured that the list will be “released in the report at the end of the programme.”
The release also confirmed that 277 market vendors, hairdressers and barbers, 250 laid-off Royalton workers and 120 Aviation Services of Grenada (ASG) employees have been added to the list of beneficiaries. “The government has also received additional requests for consideration and has committed to exploring the possibility of honouring these requests.”
Another measure provided for in the stimulus package is an unemployment benefit paid by the National Insurance Scheme. So far, close to 2,700 Grenadians have received this benefit. When it was first announced, the stimulus package covered a 3-month period.
The release which was issued on 13 July 2020 said that with the pandemic continuing to impact the closure of borders and restrict economic activity in some sectors, the Prime Minister has indicated that the government is considering a 3-month extension of the support granted to hotel workers.
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, said in his recent national address that government is “continuously evaluating the categories of persons eligible to benefit and have made some adjustments.” Since the initial announcement of the stimulus package, several categories including hairdressers, barbers and market vendors have been included among the beneficiaries.
Last week, government disclosed that it uncovered a scheme by some businesses who have engaged in defrauding practices in its claims for workers.