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Grenada Development Bank (Photo: Grenada Development Bank)

Grenada COVID-19 stimulus package underutilised — reports

Grenada Development Bank (Photo: Grenada Development Bank)

The Government of Grenada last week announced that it has disbursed less than 50 per cent of the EC$50-million COVID-19 Supplementary Estimates approved on 17 April 2020 by members of both the Lower and Upper Houses.

At that time, the Grenadian Parliament held a special sitting to approve the COVID-19 Supplementary Estimates after Cabinet declared a state of emergency with 24 hours curfew as part of measures to contain the spread of the virus. After approving the estimates, Parliament announced that it would provide the support for a 3-month period.

Eastern Caribbean dollars (File photo)

“Overall, Government has expended more than [EC]$17 million on the various measures in the stimulus package, including income and payroll support, reduction in electricity bills for consumers and grants to the Grenada Development Bank to support the Small Business Development Fund and the Small Hoteliers Business Fund, which offers concessionary loans to help stimulate business activity,” said a news release issued by the Government Information Service (GIS).

The Government also created the Covid-19 Economic Support Secretariat to specifically implement and coordinate the measures included in the stimulus package. The office has continued to process and verify applications.

From the EC$50 million, the Ministry of Finance, Planning, Economic and Physical Development received an allocation of EC$40 million for payroll support to hoteliers, restaurants and bars, small travel agents and income support to public buses, taxi drivers, tourist vendors, market vendors and other identified hospitality-based businesses.

“…[A] lot of clients are submitting applications but they are not bringing in all the documentation needed in a timely manner, hence the delay on a lot of these applications as well…”

— Garth St Bernard, senior project manager of the Small Development Fund — Grenada Development Bank

The small hoteliers facility at GDB; micro, small and medium-sized enterprises soft lending facility at GDB; and the 30 per cent electricity subsidy to consumers for three months also formed part of the stimulus package.

With the remaining EC$10 million, the Ministry of Health, Social Security and International Business would have procured items related to the fight against COVID-19, such as medication and personal protective equipment.

Of inquiries and applications

However, a report on July 10 from Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN) revealed that GDB has received just 200 inquiries about disbursement and 80 applications. According to Garth St Bernard, senior project manager of the Small Development Fund at GDB, the bank had processed only half of the applications. Garth St Bernard, senior project manager of the Small Development Fund at GDB However, a report on July 10 from Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN) revealed that GDB has received just 200 inquiries about disbursement and 80 applications. According to Garth St Bernard, senior project manager of the Small Development Fund at GDB, the bank had processed only half of the applications.

Garth St Bernard, senior project manager of the Small Development Fund — Grenada Development Bank (Photo: YouTube courtesy of Grenada Broadcasting Network)

In an interview with GBN, he noted, “As it relates to the amount of funds that we have been able disburse under the stimulus package after the COVID period, we have successfully disbursed approximately [EC]$270,000 directly to small business applicant, and these applicants are in the various sectors such as fishing, agriculture, agro-processing, retail, trade, just to name a few.”

He explained further that most of the applications came from people in the fishing and agriculture industry. Nevertheless, he pointed out that though GDB had received a large inflow of inquiries and applications, “a lot of clients are submitting applications but they are not bringing in all the documentation needed in a timely manner, hence the delay on a lot of these applications as well”.

Payroll, income and unemployment support

According to the GIS-issued release, more than 7,000 Grenadians have benefitted to date from the Government’s economic stimulus package. These include businesses that received payroll support, self-employed persons who received income support and unemployed persons who benefitted.

Most of the applicant reaching out to the Grenada Development Bank for COVID-19 assistance come from the agriculture and fishing industries. (Photo: NOW Grenada)

“Statistics from the COVID-19 Economic Support Secretariat show that the beneficiaries include 664 bus operators and close to 500 persons involved in various aspects of tourism, including taxi and tour operators and vendors. Payroll support has been provided for 137 businesses, which collectively employ more than 3,000 workers.”

The release, which provided an update on the disbursement of the stimulus package, in addition, listed the names of businesses that received payroll support. However, Press Secretary Philomena Robertson assured that the list will be “released in the report at the end of the programme.”

The release also confirmed that the secretariat added 277 market vendors, hairdressers and barbers, 250 laid-off Royalton workers, and 120 Aviation Services of Grenada (ASG) employees to the list of beneficiaries.

Some 250 Royalton Grenada Resort employees received unemployment benefits

A possible extension?

“The Government has also received additional requests for consideration and has committed to exploring the possibility of honouring these requests,” the document outlined.

In terms of unemployment benefits, the National Insurance Scheme had up to last week aided 2,700 Grenadians.

The release said that with the pandemic continuing to impact the closure of borders and restrict economic activity in some sectors, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell and his Government would consider extending the support for an additional three months.

In a recent national address Dr Mitchell, who is also the minister of finance, said the Government is “continuously evaluating the categories of persons eligible to benefit and have made some adjustments.”