Wednesday 15 July, 2020

COVID-19: $5.9 billion relief for workers impacted by global pandemic

Dr Nigel Clarke

Dr Nigel Clarke

The Jamaican Government is to provide $5.9 billion in relief for workers who have been laid off or whose services have been terminated as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic now sweeping the globe, and which has already started to seriously impact locally.

Finance and Planning Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, made the announcement in the House of Representatives on Tuesday as he closed the 2020-2021 Budget Debate. He outlined how the Government’s $10 billion COVID-19 Contingency Fund is to be spent.

He said employees who are to benefit from the $5.9 billion package are those whose taxable income is $1.5 million or less per annum. Businesses in the tourism sector which have retained employees whose taxable income is $1.5 million or less, are also to benefit.

The minister gave a further breakdown of the planned spending as follows:

1) $1.5 billion for COVID grants for persons on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH). This is to effectively increase by 50 per cent, the payments to PATH beneficiaries during the April to June period.

2) $1 billion in COVID grants for the informally employed. These are to include workers in the transportation sector, such as JUTA operators, as well as craft and market vendors who are registered with their various organisations.

3) $800 million for MSME grants for micro and small businesses.

4) $1.2 billion in COVID tourism grants for small operators in the tourism-related sector.

5) $200 million in COVID compassionate grants from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), which is to be distributed through the constituency offices of Members of Parliament (MP).

6) $150 million to the Ministry of Local Government to attend to the needs of the elderly, the infirmed and the homeless.

7) $200 million to support small farmers.

8) All principal and interest payments are to be suspended on students’ loans from April to June of this year, to cushion the impact on young graduates, while giving new graduates 14 months after graduation to start payments on their loans.

9) Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) is to, up to June 30, facilitate the issuing of one-off or single-use tax compliance certificates (TCC) to businesses which may fall into non-compliance. TAJ is to also not issue any new summonses or initiate any new court proceedings or enforcement action for non-compliance until after June 30. However, TAJ is to continue to issue reminders and notices during this period.

The finance minister said that persons who are to benefit from the measures must be taxpayers or be otherwise registered with their respective organisations, to ensure accountability with the relief programme.

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