Categorized | National News

$11 Million Added to Health Sector for COVID-19

Minister of Finance K. Peter Turnquest

An additional $11 million has been allocated for the health sector to assist in the fight against COVID-19, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest.

In the House of Assembly on Wednesday, Turnquest listed a compendium of economic measures the government will implement to combat the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s economy.

Turnquest said the country is already starting to feel the impact of COVID-19, as he said hotel occupancies have fallen, cruise ship arrivals are on a 30-day hiatus, and as hotel workers are being asked to take unpaid or vacation leave.

However, Turnquest said the economic safety measures put in place will help to mitigate the negative impact.

“In addition to the nearly $5 million we have already earmarked for healthcare response, we are allocating up to an additional $11 million to cover detection, isolation, treatment and other COVID-19 mitigation activities,” he said.

“We are setting aside $4 million to provide food assistance and social support for displaced workers directly impacted by the virus, through the Ministry of Social Services. These food assistance vouchers of $100 every second week will be targeted primarily to persons within the hospitality industry who are facing reduced work weeks. This allocation will allow for up to eight weeks of benefit payments, but may be adjusted according to need.”

Turnquest said the government is also allocating $10 million to provide for a temporary unemployment benefit, administered through the National Insurance Board, for self-employed persons working in the tourism industry.

Self-employed persons such as straw vendors, tour operators, jet ski operators, do not ordinarily qualify for the National Insurance unemployment benefit as part of their benefits package.

However, he said the government is making a special accommodation for those self-employed individuals in the tourism industry, given the unprecedented COVID-19 impact.

In addition to these measures, Turnquest said government will commit $20 million in short term loan support to Bahamian small businesses impacted by COVID-19 situation, will speed up the approval process for all domestic and foreign capital investments projects currently in the pipeline and will limit all non-essential expenses including but not limited to travel, and the scale down or postponement of planned events.

Turnquest added that the government has no plans to borrow more money at this time as it diligently manages the country’s debt levels.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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