#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – September 13, 2020 — Thousands of households in Turks and Caicos will benefit from a new stimulus grant program rolled out by the country’s premier and finance minister on September 10.
“Today I am pleased to announce the launch of a new stimulus grant program to attempt to address the economic fall-out resulting from the pandemic, the Turks and Caicos government has re-apportioned or reclassified $5m in stimulus grant that were appropriated in April 2020,” said Sharlene Robinson during a press conference at the Office of the Premier.
Three hundred taxi drivers; 9,700 workers and 11,000 households are expected to benefit from the stimulus suite featuring cash payments, unemployment benefits and food assistance.
“$4.5 million will now be made available in direct assistance to employees that would have been impacted during the national lockdown in the Turks and Caicos islands during the period march to June 2020; it is being proposed that these individuals will be given a one off payment of $600,” explained the Premier in her statement broadcast live on national radio and over social media.
The Premier shared the criteria for eligibility will be revealed later and informed native Turks and Caicos Islanders, who benefited from the first wave in stimulus payouts, would be able to apply for support once again.
“If you would have received a first stimulus, you would only need to provide proof and not necessary for you to through the entire process of providing documents again.”
Previously all hospitality workers – indigenous and expatriate – were deemed eligible for $1,200 government cash assistance. Taxi drivers and other public service vehicle license holders were not included but are now singled out for government cash support.
“Half a million dollars has now been made available for a separate stimulus program for persons operating within the public service vehicle license sector; this included eligible operators in the community cab, taxi and private transfer vehicle category,” the Premier added, “This will certainly assist the taxi drivers who have been waiting for their stimulus to be offered and to be approved.”
Taxi drivers had protested in July; demanding inclusion in the stimulus payouts. Many of the drivers were either not registered with the National Insurance Board, NIB or had sizable arrears. Efforts to bypass these restrictive requirements were stalled. The Premier and Finance Minister, last Thursday delivered the welcoming news following a decision by Cabinet.
“We will be opening that stimulus program back up, for persons to apply,” explained the Premier who, on Thursday repeated that details of distribution of the funds were to be announced.
Acknowledgement of the traditionally slow tourism season, the usually busy hurricane season and the unprecedented impact of the coronavirus pandemic even on back to school, has not been lost of the government, shared Mrs. Robinson.
“Your government has identified approximately 11,000 households within the Turks and Caicos Islands; identified by parcel and head of household for this program,” it was added that, “This program will be led under the Office of the Premier, Local Government and Community Affairs who will provide further information on the temporary food program.”
It is a temporary program, approved by the TCI Cabinet, which will support households nationwide.
During the press conference, which welcomed media via ZOOM, Premier Robinson announced an unemployment and under employment benefit scheme to come for the Turks and Caicos workforce through the NIB.
The NIB has approved $4.2 million for eight weeks of unemployment benefit payments.
“Contributors would have had to have a minimum of 250 or five years of contributions with special provisions for Turks and Caicos Islanders and PRC holders, the applicant must either have been laid off or terminated as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The proposed benefit rate is fifty percent of the individuals’ average weekly, insurable earnings and is payable for an initial period of eight weeks or until the exhaustion of the $4.2 million.”
The NIB fund is expected to support 2,200 workers.
Education Minister announces Platinum Partnerships for internet and tablet program amidst COVID surge
By Shaniek Smith
#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – Schools did not resume in person learning in the Turks and Caicos on January 4, instead it was back to virtual classes for 7,400 children in the British overseas territory due to an omicron-driven surge in Covid-19 infections.
It was announced on the New Year’s Day holiday for TCI, January 3 in a press conference hosted by Rachel Taylor, the Minister of Education, and attended by Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and supported by Premier Washington Misick, who was also at the live event.
In a promised update, parents got the not-so-good-news, virtual classes would resume at least until the end of January due to the surge and staff shortages being experienced. Turks and Caicos, up to Thursday January 14 had over 800 active cases, five new deaths and a 600 per cent increase in hospitalisations. The Minister said the decision was in the interest of safety.
The Minister also promised to get devices and internet to students in order for them to participate in learning during this virtual-only season. The press conference on January 13, welcomed partners Flow, Digicel and the Pine Cay Project.
In her address, chair of the Pine Cay Project, Marie Landel, said that an urgent call from Dr. Carlton Mills, a member of their board of trustees revealed that about 750 students would be without internet connection and devices.
The Pine Cay Project responded to that information and has agreed to pay for internet for 30 days students, with its partner in the initiative, DigicelTCI. It is an $18,000 investment in education continuity for hundreds of children.
“We had strong discussions on what we should do with the money that we collect every year, so yesterday we agreed to the funding in emergency situation of 300 internet connections and devices that are going to help the students in need, and we’re very proud to be able to act quickly,” Landel expressed.
Additionally, the Marketing Manager at Digicel TCI, Mr Drexler Smith, said Digicel has partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide about 1,000 tablets for public schools. Smith added that 75 MiFi devices valued at 7,000 dollars were provided; they come with free data services for up to three months for students in need.
Digicel has also created a special education plan for e-learning with specific zero-rated sites and applications. The company partnered with Pine Cay and other private entities in this regard. Various schools and educational facilities in South Caicos, Five Cays, and Providenciales have benefitted from laptops, data plans, MiFi’s, and e-learning kits.
Marketing Executive Flow TCI, Darron Hilaire, also shared the contributions Flow made to the education sector since the pandemic.
“Within the last three years, Flow TCI, through our charitable foundation, would have donated $130,000 worth of ICT equipment to 2 schools respectively in Grand Turk and in Providenciales for the outfitting of the new computer labs to help facilitate the ministry’s vision to foster an efficient e-learning environment for students,” he said.
Mr. Hilaire added that within the first year of the pandemic, Flow responded to requests from the Ministry to increase the bandwidth to public schools in the TCI. Hilaire said Flow home internet speed doubles automatically at no cost to its customers in early July.
He said that within the last 60 days, Flow TCI announced a recent donation of $25,000 dollars to two schools in North Caicos and one in Providenciales. The donation was in aid of increasing connectivity and infrastructural upgrades.
“As we come to the end of this phase of the project, our objective is to look at doing the same for other schools in the second phase of the projects to further arm our schools with the access to technology to provide the best quality education to students,” Hilaire added.
Amanyara Resort, not present at the press event, was said to be working on additional laptops for hundreds of children despite having already donated to several schools in Providenciales.
Minister Rachel Taylor and her team, including Eugene Grant, ICT Education Officer at the Ministry of Education and Mark Garland, Deputy Director of Education thanked the donors; they were labelled Platinum Partners by the Minister.
Government apologizes to Churches for NEW Covid-19 Testing rule
#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – The TCI Government is apologizing for including the Church in a new raft of restrictions which mandates unvaccinated congregants be tested in order to be allowed to attend church events however, there is no change in the rule. The rule is now delayed start for another two weeks following an announcement issued by the Ministry of Health on Thursday evening.
The apology came from Premier Washington Misick in a statement late Wednesday, where he apologized for bunching the church in with restaurants, lounges, bars and discotheques which also have to follow the regulation.
Church pastors speaking with Magnetic Media expressed shock at the announcement which was revealed, on Tuesday, as a cabinet approved decision which also includes mandatory testing for the unvaccinated to attend funerals.
While there has been no official statement from the Turks and Caicos Islands Christian Council or the Pastors Fraternity it was clear that some of the church community seemed prepared to stand firmly against the measure.
The Premier has promised that there will be consultation going forward; beckoning to Churches to comply with the temporary rule which he said would help to curb the latest surge of COVID-19 cases.
Cruising & Caring for Health and Wealth
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – As the cruising industry in Grand Turk continues to get back into full swing with an anticipated four cruises or more per week, Turks and Caicos Islanders who work in the industry will again be interacting with thousands of foreign nationals on a weekly basis.
Normally this would be a cause for celebration and it is, but with the world in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and especially in light of the newest variant, the rules have changed.
As researchers find more information in regards to Omicron it is becoming increasingly clear that while the variant may be slightly milder than others its transmissibility is a major treat to populations, economies and health systems everywhere.
The following are tips that will help balance TCI tourism workers’ income and their safety, or as government often puts it, “lives and livelihoods”.
Masks have become a part of life since the beginning of the pandemic, some wear them for safety, others because they are mandated. Nearly all of us have experienced that ‘oh no’ moment when we realize we’ve left our mask behind, it’s a funny anecdote to represent our new normal in theory.
In reality it can be dangerous, life threatening even, to be without protective measures especially for vendors who interact with international visitors all day long.
This means prior preparation is key. Outfit your stall with masks and the recommended cleaning agents, have extras on hand so you never get caught without. If possible put the required distance between your own stall and your neighbors. If possible create dividers for yourself and tourists that will allow you to interact safely. Place reminders in the form of signs around your stall so guests are not tempted to flout safety measures.
In the Moment
Cruise days can be hectic, there are so many people and so little time but as you rush to make your sales or braid hair it is important to keep safety protocols in mind.
Always maintain social distancing between yourself and guests, this is especially important in high volume situations like this as guests can be asymptomatic.
If you operate a business that will not allow you to do so e.g. hair braiding, keep your mask on at all times and insist that your guests do so as well.
Limit the amount of guests allowed in your space at once.
Establish rigorous and frequent cleaning protocols, as guests move around in their excitement they may forget to sanitize. Clean surfaces regularly with the recommended products to prevent lingering traces of anything dangerous.
When guests have departed and it’s time to close up shop don’t skip any steps that could undo a successful day of safe practices.
Wash your money, it may seem strange but bills are made from durable paper that is not susceptible to tearing or water-wear. Washing your bills and coins gently will not hurt them but will protect you from any lingering viruses. Clean regularly touched areas and items. Get tested regularly, that way if you do get infected you will be in the know early. If you feel ill, immediately self-isolate and test to confirm if you have COVID or not. Deep clean your stall regularly, disinfecting as many areas as you can.
Covid-19 has forced us into a new normal but Turks and Caicos Islanders are resilient, it is possible to balance safety and profit, remember to wash your hands and obey all the protocols so the TCI can come out of this Pandemic with as little losses as possible.
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