#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – October 10, 2020 – Residents are clinging to the hope that announcements about cash and food assistance in the midst of the coronavirus crisis are still on their way.
It has been a month since the Premier and Finance Minister unveiled a stimulus suite which included payouts to workers who had lost earnings during the Covid-19 lockdown and public service licensees, like taxi drivers who protested that they were not included in a first round of stimulus monies.
The Premier’s Office revealed it would manage food distribution to all 11,000 households across the Turks and Caicos and would bring breakthrough policy change to enable payments from the National Insurance Board (NIB) to its contributors who were unemployed or underemployed.
While the NIB unemployment and underemployment benefits require legislative change, Cabinet has already accepted the broadening of benefits schedule and the House of Assembly must now deliberate and vote on the measure.
Still, the silence since September 10 by Hon Sharlene Robinson, the Premier is deafening and the stall is becoming increasingly painful for households which have seen their individuals earnings plummet.
A press conference, where an update was expected was first postponed and then never materialized.
On September 18, an update from the Office of the Premier reiterated the need for support to residents who are suffering dire financial straits due to the drastic down turn in travel and tourism.
“We have an obligation to our people and we must help our people to survive during this period of great challenge experienced worldwide. Though our revenues are down and our monthly obligations are growing due to rising healthcare and COVID-19 related costs, as a Government, we are obligated to do what we can,” explained the Premier.
Laptops and electronic devices are duty-free to families and the Customs Department has approved suitable applicants for the concession. It was one of the stimulus supports uncorked on September 10.
“With schools switching to online learning as a result of the pandemic, this measure is to assist students. TCIG has provided tablets for many identified by educators and this initiative is to provide further support to parents and students in addition to support given by many private sector donors,” said Premier Robinson.
Previously, food help was coming from the Department of Social Services. On September 10, Premier Robinson had a major announcement which shifted who would provide groceries to families.
“A National Food Assistance Programme for All: 11,000 households throughout the TCI will benefit from this programme, with the exclusion of tourism properties. Those households will have an ability to opt out should they wish to. This will be fully funded by TCI Government under the Ministry of Finance but managed by the Office of the Premier, Local Government and Community Affairs through the assistance of volunteers.”
The ‘National Food Assistance Programme for All’ initiative was praised. To date, however, islanders have learned nothing new and heard nothing more.