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More than 500,000 Jamaicans apply for COVID Care Programme

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KINGSTON, JAMAICA – May 13, 2020 – The Government’s COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Programme has received more than 500,000 applications across the available grant types.

Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, made the disclosure while giving an update in the House of Representatives on May 12.

He said that given the disproportionately high number of applications for the Compassionate Grant (over 400,000), processing and payment of these has taken precedence. 

            Dr. Clarke informed the Lower House that Compassionate Grant transfers to financial institutions began during the middle of last week and the funds have been available to applicants since May 7.

            He noted that many persons selected to receive the funds through remittance companies.

            “We had a total of 401,314 Compassionate Grants, of which 210,267 applications sought the commercial bank avenue of payment, 162,024 sought to be paid through remittance agencies, and 29,023 sought to be paid through                      credit unions/building societies,” he told the House.

            He said that of the total number of applicants, approximately 378,919 were deemed eligible and 22,395 or six per cent were determined to be ineligible due to the fact that they are on a recent payroll.

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So far, approximately $2.65 billion in Compassionate Grant payments for some 265,000 applicants, or 70 per cent of those eligible, has been made to the financial institutions selected by applicants. The remainder are being processed, including for the validation of banking information.

The Finance and the Public Service Minister said applicants who have received a text message confirming eligibility and whose bank accounts have been verified can expect the funds to be sent directly to their account.

More than 106,000 applicants, who elected to receive Compassionate Grants by way of their bank accounts, have had their accounts credited.

“Where the bank account information submitted is not valid, which may arise, for example, if the name on the account differs from the name on the application, or if the branch is incorrect, or if the account is dormant, the applicant receives a text message advising of such and they are invited to correct the banking information or to select to receive their grant by remittance. Once the updates are completed, these transfers will be made after revalidating and batching,” Dr. Clarke said.

            “Last Friday, May 8, we had 77,000 applicants in this category. As at May 12, that number was reduced to 44,000 as applicants corrected their banking information,” he noted.

Dr. Clarke is reminding persons collecting grants through remittance agencies that they are required to present a government-issued picture identification (ID) card, Tax Registration Number (TRN) and Application Reference Number.

            “Where an applicant does not have a government-issued ID but is on the printed Voter’s List, he/she can contact the Electoral Office of Jamaica, which will open their offices on May 13,” he indicated.

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            He is appealing for beneficiaries to follow the guidelines of remittance companies to ensure an orderly procedure for collection.

            He said that beneficiaries have until June 30 to collect the funds from their chosen financial institution, “so there is no need to rush”.

            Dr. Clarke noted that arrangements have been made for beneficiaries to collect payments through remittance companies on the grounds of the National Stadium and inside the National Arena in order to allow for a more orderly and comfortable process.

            “We will be moving to make similar arrangements at large open spaces in other parishes, starting with St. Catherine, where we have a large number of applicants,” he said.

            In addition, Dr. Clarke said the Government is exploring mechanisms for third-party collection of Compassionate Grants for persons over 65 years old.

JIS News By LATONYA LINTON

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RTCIPF Marine Branch and USCG Working Together in Keeping Our Borders Secure

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#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2022 – During the afternoon of Wednesday 19th May 2022, a call was made to the RTCIPF Marine Operations Centre via VHF radio that a suspicious vessel was sighted around 35 miles south east of Providenciales. The operator immediately updated colleagues within the Royal Turks and Caicos Marine Branch who made their way to the location and with the support of a US Coast Guard (USCG) plane, safely intercepted an overloaded vessel carrying irregular migrants.

Following delicate coordination and the stabilization of the boat which was unsafe, severely overcrowded and none of the occupants was wearing life vests, the RTCIPF marine unit was joined by a second RTCIPF Marine crew and a third vessel crewed with TCI Regiment and Tactical Unit officers to support the delicate operation.

The vessel was carefully offloaded at sea to ensure the safety of the occupants after which, the boat was towed to South Dock where it arrived around 10:30pm with a total of 110 persons (84 males and 24 females and 2 juveniles) who were then taken into custody by the Immigration Department.

Superintendent Martyn Ball said, “Once again working with partners we have safely intercepted another vessel that was overcrowded, unsafe, risking the lives of those on board. This demonstrates the professionalism and dedication of the RTCIPF Marine Unit, working together with colleagues in the Marine Operations Centre, USCG, TCI Regiment, TCI Immigration and the RTCIPF Tactical Unit to save lives and keep our borders here in the Turks and Caicos safe.  In the last couple of months around 768 individuals on 8 dangerous vessels have been intercepted which is testament to the professionalism of our teams here in the TCI and I am very grateful to the passing vessel who raised the alarm.  I would appeal to anyone if you have any information relating to such activity that you call Crimes Stoppers free and anonymously on 1-800-8477 (TIPS) not only will you be saving lives but also supporting our national security here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

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List of Demands for UK, presented by Overseas Territories at May 4-6 meetings

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#UnitedKingdom, May 19, 2022 – Speakers of the House from Overseas Territories in the Caribbean met with the UK House of Commons in the first ever Speaker-led conference to discuss issues relating to governance, climate and visibility in the House of Commons and provide the UK with an idea of what they say is necessary for OTs to survive.

The meeting held on May 4th to 6th was attended by Speakers from Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, the UK House of Commons and a representative from Gibraltar.

A communique released after the event made it clear that democracy was of utmost import to the small island states.

“We reaffirmed the central role played by legislatures in democratic life, our commitment to the principles of democracy in our legislatures, the sacredness of democracy and the need for partnership to sustain it. As our legislatures bring together all components of society, they are the cornerstones of democratic governance; they represent the wills and expressions of the people through scrutiny and democratic process,” it said.

Governance

In order to support the legislature the OTs requested that the UK government provide funding for them to have a ‘dedicated building in which to carry out its activities and duties’ as well as investment in the training of officials and sharing of best practices. The Speakers also requested that funding be provided for any constitutional reviews should the issue arise.

To ensure that the overseas territories have a voice in legislation in the UK that affects them the UK Speaker promised to explore opportunities for OTs to scrutinise these laws . Additionally the UK Speaker said the house of commons was willing to help facilitate parliamentary representation of the Overseas Territories at the UK Parliament if the territories decided they wanted to.

The Speakers requested that outside of this the UK provide detailed Impact Assessments for any bill that would affect them

Climate Change 

Aptly described as a climate emergency in the communique the speakers noted that while the OTs were bastions of nature  the volatility with which climate change was occurring would directly impact overseas territories first and worst.

“The Overseas Territories are custodians of internationally important habitats, which span the globe from the Antarctic to the Caribbean, the South Atlantic to the Pacific and the Indian Oceans with different geographical challenges…We recognise that the Overseas Territories have multiple levels of vulnerability including economic constraints and challenges of infrastructure which mean the impacts of the climate emergency can result in huge environmental disasters and economic impacts” it said.

Thus the countries called for long term, strategic action by the UK including dedicated and transparent funding to replace lost EU funding caused by Brexit. They also thanked the UK for their commitment to biodiversity.

The territories ended on a firm note emphasising their right to self-determination saying, “We reiterate our shared belief that the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, as enshrined in the UN Charter, applies to the peoples of the Overseas Territories.”

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JAMAICA: Bust of Labour Movement Activist Agnes Bernard Unveiled

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#Jamaica, May 19, 2022 – A bust of Agnes “Aggie” Bernard, a stalwart in Jamaica’s labour movement, has been erected at the Kingston Craft Market located downtown.

The sculpture, which rests atop an existing monument in her honour, was commissioned in partnership between the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.

It was unveiled during a ceremony on Wednesday (May 18) to kick off Workers’ Week from May 15 to 23 under the theme ‘Repositioning Jamaica’s Labour Market post COVID-19’.

Speaking at the unveiling, Culture Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange, said that Ms. Bernard was one of the foremost pioneering women activists in Jamaica’s labour movement during the 1938 labour riots that were pivotal in Jamaica’s political development.

“We honour one of the truly outstanding women of Jamaica, a heroine in her own right. Aggie was truly one of the great and faithful servants of the labour movement in Jamaica,” she said.

“At the age of 28 in 1938, she was there when Alexander Bustamante, who had decided to lead the workers, and Garveyite, St. William Grant, were arrested fighting for the cause of striking workers. Seeing all of this, Aggie was moved to lend a hand to the cause and what a mighty hand that was,” Ms. Grange recounted.

The Minster said that the decision not only changed Aggie’s life, but it had a signal effect on the labour movement in Jamaica.

“She used up all the money she had at the time, the grand sum of five shillings and sixpence to buy bread, coffee and sugar for the hungry strikers. Admiring and supporting her move, sympathisers stepped in and gave money for food,” Ms. Grange said.

In 1976, Aggie was honoured with the Order of Distinction in recognition of her outstanding service to the trade union movement and her contribution to nationhood. The Organization of American States (OAS) also awarded her a special certificate of merit. She died on October 7, 1980 and was given an official funeral and buried at National Heroes Park.

Ms. Grange said that the bust of Aggie Bernard is a tribute to the workers of Jamaica and is one of the Legacy Projects for the country’s diamond jubilee.

For his part, Labour Minister, Hon. Karl Samuda, in a speech read by Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Dione Jennings, said Workers’ Week recognises workers across Jamaica for their unwavering contribution to the economic growth and development of the society.

He said that this year’s theme recognises that “if Jamaica is to recover lost ground and continue on the road to economic prosperity, it will be the Jamaican worker who will have to redouble our efforts, in every sector, to improve our productivity and increase our earning power”.

The Minister noted that Jamaica has come a long way since the devastating labour riots in 1938, when the workers took action all over the island to press for improved working conditions.

Those actions, he said, led to the establishment of the Minimum Wage Act and a Labour Department, which was the precursor to the current Ministry of Labour, both in 1938.

“No longer do we, as a people, have to resort to rioting, strikes and other counter-productive measures to have our voices heard. We now settle our grievances by engaging an established conciliatory process,” Mr. Samuda said.

“In spite of the recent cases of unrest, the peace and industrial harmony which we generally enjoy has come at great cost. And so, we gather here, at this, the Monument to the Workers of 1938, which stands as a reminder of the bravery and tenacity of the workers and leaders, who risked their lives to [improve] the condition of labour in Jamaica. The nation salutes you, our unsung heroes,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, said the Government respects and appreciates the rights of “every single Jamaican to advocate for better and improved working conditions”.

“The Government is not lost as to the concerns of the workers. The Government is committed in every way to ensure that the workers are rewarded in a meaningful way,” Mr. McKenzie said.

 

Release: Latonya Linton

Release: JIS

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