Tuesday 27 October, 2020

COVID-19 CARE Programme: Who gets what?

iStock photo of a female vendor with woven handbags, beach hats, and other clothing merchandise in Jamaica. Craft vendors registered with the TPDCo are eligible for a one-time grant of $40,000 under the government's COVID-19 relief programme.

iStock photo of a female vendor with woven handbags, beach hats, and other clothing merchandise in Jamaica. Craft vendors registered with the TPDCo are eligible for a one-time grant of $40,000 under the government's COVID-19 relief programme.

By Lynford Simpson

Tens of thousands of Jamaicans have already been thrown out of work because of the unrelenting effects of the rapidly unfolding COVID-19 pandemic that has left the global economy in tatters and on its way to what analysts have warned could be a depression. 

If that materialises, it would mark the first time the world economy would have been in depression since the 1930s Great Depression. 

Locally, the tourism sector is among the hardest hit with reports that up to 90 per cent of the estimated 100,000 workers who are directly employed to the industry are already out of work. Tens of thousands of others who are indirectly employed to the sector, including in agriculture, transportation, the restaurant and craft business, are also out of work.

The RIU hotel in Montego Bay. RIU was among several local hotel chains to announce temporary closures due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Elsewhere, small business owners, the self employed as well as barbers, hairdressers and bar and nightclub owners have seen their income dry up as they are forced to either scale back or shutter their businesses.

The Government has moved to cushion the economic effects now being felt in many quarters through several relief packages which form part of its overall $10 billion COVID-19 response.

Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke indicated that, hours after the government launched a website last Thursday to receive requests for assistance from Jamaicans seeking financial relief, a staggering 71,000 people had applied online.

Finance Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke

The website for the COVID-19 Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) programme, www.wecare.gov.jm, was launched Thursday morning and had received nearly 7,000 applications in the first hour. The number ballooned to over 71,000 applicants by mid-afternoon.

Clarke revealed that 51,205 of the applications were from people seeking compassionate grants while 19,744 people applied for the Supporting Employees with Transfer of Cash (SET Cash) grant. 

The compassionate grant is aimed at assisting persons who are either not formally employed or unemployed. These individuals will receive a one-time cash grant of $10,000.

The SET Cash grant is for persons who were formally employed but lost their jobs after March 10. They will receive a grant of $9,000 every two weeks ($18,000 monthly) until June. 

In order to qualify for the SET Cash Grant, individuals must earn equal to, or less than the income tax threshold of $1.5 million.

Loop News details below, the different components of the CARE programme, who qualifies and the amounts that will be paid:

SET Cash:  The amount payable to employees from any sector is $9,000 per fortnight or $18,000 monthly. It applies to persons who would have lost their jobs between March 10 and June 30, 2020. The amount will be paid each month between April and June.

BEST Cash: An amount of $9,000 per fortnight will be paid monthly between April and June to employees of registered businesses operating in the hotel, tours and attraction segments of the tourism sector.

COVID-19 General Grants:  Group A includes barbers, hairdressers, beauty therapists and cosmetologists who must be registered with the municipal authorities by April 30, 2020. Group B includes taxi and bus operators with PPV licences who must be registered with the Transport Authority by April 30, 2020. Both groups A and B will receive a one-time grant of $25,000.

COVID-19 General Grants: Group C includes bar and nightclub operators who must be registered with the municipal authorities by April 30, 2020. Group D includes craft vendors, JUTA, MAXI and JCAL operators who must be registered with TPDCo by April 30, 2020. Both groups C and D will receive a one-time grant of $40,000.

COVID-19 Compassionate Grant: A one-time payment of $10,000. Eligible persons include anyone in need (tertiary students), the unemployed, informally employed, elderly, pensioners etc. Applicants are eligible for other CARE benefits with the exception of the COVID-19 PATH Grant.

COVID-19 Small Business Grants: In order to benefit from this one-time grant of $100,000, businesses must be registered and have filed tax returns for year of assessment, the 2019 financial year. They must also have had average sales less than or equal to $50 million per annum for the 3-year period 2017-2019.

TOURISM GRANT: For businesses operating in the tourism sector, inclusive of hotels, attractions and tours which are registered with TPDCo. Businesses selected by the COVID Tourism Grant Committee will receive grants of varying sizes up to a set limit.

PATH GRANT: For anyone registered with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security as a PATH beneficiary. These persons will receive an additional PATH payment between April and June.

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