#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.