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TCIG cuts Economic Stimulus by over $10 million while 2,000 people wait for cash

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#TurksandCaicosIslands – December 22, 2020 – The pace and procedure of financial support to thousands of Turks and Caicos Islands people amidst the catastrophic Covid-19 pandemic has attracted some commendation but mainly it has elicited stinging criticism.

Government last week rushed through the House of Assembly a measure to grant a Christmas loan of up to one month’s salary to Civil Servants, while casually accepting that as many as 2,000 people who applied for stimulus cash were still waiting the promised funds. 

The first stimulus payouts began in April, yet of the 9,000 people who had applied and the 7,165 applications which were approved, there remains nearly 400 people, eight months later, who have yet to be paid.

The fact is revealed in the 61-page Appropriations Committee Report which guided debate on the recent Budget Supplementary.

Families across the country have been devastated by the pandemic’s walloping effect on travel and tourism.  In some households, both mother and father lost income or experienced a drastic reduction in salary. 

Public sector salaries were uninterrupted during the pandemic, yet the urgency of the government was clear and the Christmas loan for its workers was fast-tracked.

The same sense of resoluteness was less tangible in relation to the thousands who have been pining for their stimulus monies.

Taxi and public license drivers still wait.  In a press conference, it was announced there is a $500,000 allotment to this category of workers.  However, until they work out an arrangement with the National Insurance Board, the free funding is frozen.

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From the report:  ‘Taxi Drivers Stimulus – The Taxi Drivers stimulus is still outstanding as the Ministry of Finance is awaiting confirmation from the Taxi Drivers that they had entered into arrangements with NIB’

In the second round of Economic Stimulus, the TCI Government offered $600 to Turk and Caicos citizens who were adversely impacted when the national lockdown and subsequent raft of restrictions were imposed from March to July.

The deadline for applications was December 9 and 3,129 Belongers applied for the financial help.  The Report did not state who, if anyone, had received the payout.

The Appropriations Committee Report informed 90 percent of the 900 Business applications approved are paid; however it means 90 local companies, months later, are still hanging on in hope for the critical cash.

Also striking in the report is the stated reduction of $5.5 million in funding to the Economic Stimulus plan.  However, the same report informed that the Committee approved $19.3 million as the new budgeted sum for the stimulus. This agreed figure falls nearly $12 million below the previously budgeted $25 million dollars for financial support to workers amidst the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the country is apparently swimming in cash due to, what can only be labelled, a wise savings strategy firmly guided by British oversight of the once fiscally beleaguered territory. 

In the Report presented in the House of Assembly on December 16, 2020 it is outlined that cumulatively, TCIG has $155 million dollars set aside.

The breakdown is:  the National Forfeiture Fund: $6.4 million; National Wealth Fund: $25.8 million; the Development Fund: $26 million and Unrestricted Cash: $96.8 million.

While some countries committed to monthly payments up to a specific number of weeks of stimulus money to people who suffered lost wages as a result of the unexpected, unprecedented impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Turks and Caicos Islands Government opted for a one-time only payment approach.

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Health

Woman dies on Tuesday; 32nd Covid Death for Turks & Caicos

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos has recorded its 32nd death related to COVID-19.

A Ministry of Health press release informed that the individual who was in quarantine in Grand Turk and requested emergency aid on Tuesday; response came from the public health team in Grand Turk.

The person, who we are told is a special needs young woman – was unvaccinated and had underlying medical conditions.

The death rate in the Turks and Caicos of both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons has climbed alarmingly this year.  In the 21-month period from March 2020 when the country recorded its first case to December 2021, there were 26 deaths recorded in the TCI.

In the 19 days since the start of 2022 that number has increased to 32; which means six deaths already in January.

 

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Bahamas News

Cruising should slow down says PAHO

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

‘Slow down on Cruising’, that’s the word from the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO in their latest recent press conference.

Dr. Ciro Ugarte Director of Health Emergencies at the PAHO was referring to the Bahamas but made sure to note that the advice was highly relevant to many countries in the times of omicron.

“In the context of intense transmission, due to the Omicron variant as we have highlighted several times. It is just logical to suspend or at least limit the cruise ship traffic as an outbreak on board might end up exceedingly high and probably will go beyond the capacity of local health services”

Both the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos are experiencing a massive uptick in cases and several warnings regarding cruise travel have been issued by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Cruising just resumed for many regional countries this past Summer, Turks and Caicos was among the latest to restart on December 13.

A stop to sailing would be devastating to economies, however, ports of call like Grand Turk which are reeling with rocketing case numbers of COVID are urged to consider the suggestion of slowing down on ships by PAHO.

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Caribbean News

Understanding Sargassum with help from the TCI’s Department of Environment & Coastal Resources  

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By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – Sargassum, also known as seaweed, is a natural brown macroalga that lives in temperate and tropical oceans of the world. The floating micro eco-system is important to many species, including baby turtles, little crabs, and tiny fish. All these animals use the floating rafts of the sargassum for protection, shelter, and food.

Over the years, sargassum has been increasing its quantity in the Caribbean due to climate change. As water temperatures increase, sargassum blooms, and as this continues, it occurs in large amounts. This can be dangerous for some marine life because when seaweed washes up on the shore, some species become trapped in the sargassum mat.

Environmental Outreach Coordinator at the Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources for TCI, Amy Avenant, says the Turks and Caicos Islands has not seen the worst of the overgrowth.

“In the Turks and Caicos Islands, we have not seen the full severity of sargassum blooms. Our neighbours in Bonaire, for example, experience up to six feet of sargassum, and they have found stranded dolphins, sea turtles, and sometimes even birds,” said Amy Avenant.

“When the sargassum washes up on shore, it starts to decompose, and when it decomposes, it emits methane, and that is the stinky sulfuric eggy smell that you can smell when you walk past it on the beach. It is a bad thing for climate change because of the methane, but it is not harmful to your health.”

Turks and Caicos saw this in extreme amounts in October; so severe, resorts were forced to bag and bury the stinky seaweed which for over a week covered the usually sandy white stretch of Grace Bay beach.

Avenant noted that in the TCI, we have a balance between managing the influx of sargassum and impacting the areas where it lands because its influx is correlated to the cycles of the moon.

She also said sargassum can be used as a fertilizer in farming. If you collect it, the advice is to spread it out and ensure you wash the excess salt off before adding to your gardens or farms.

There are also hidden dangers and habitat threats to the piles of sargassum on shorelines.

Avenant informed, when you see sargassum on the beach, ensure you watch out for wildlife that might be stuck and species which might have made a home of the ocean’s deposit which has washed up, this is heightened on rocky shores.

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