The National Insurance Scheme building in Grenada (Photo: NOW Grenada)

NIS Grenada allocates EC$10 million for COVID-19 unemployment benefit

The National Insurance Scheme building in Grenada (Photo: NOW Grenada)

The National Insurance Board (NIB) in Grenada has allocated EC$10 million for workers who have lost income because of measures taken by the Government to reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Grenada declared a state of emergency on March 25, which involved a 24-hour curfew that restricted the movement of citizens. Based on the terms for the state of emergency, a wide cross-section of companies had to halt operations since they were not classified as essential services or workers.

On Thursday, in a statement broadcast on the Government Information Service (GIS), Director of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Dorset Cromwell, said the benefit package will be a flat monthly payment for six months.

Director of the National Insurance Scheme Dorset Cromwell (Photo: NOW Grenada)

“The EC$10 million will be shared equally among all. There will be no distinction between higher- and lower-income workers. This will not be based on your income,” he explained, as he clarified that the board’s decision is based on the reality that workers will be severely affected in the coming months.

Applying for assistance

 “Eligible persons must have been contributing to the NIS and must be unemployed as a direct consequence of COVID-19. Persons who are receiving income support or payroll support from the Government of Grenada will not be eligible. There will be no double-dipping,” Cromwell continued.

The NIS director also explained that applications for the benefit must be made by the employers and self-employed individuals only.

Eastern Caribbean currency notes (Photo: Caribbean National Weekly)

“Qualified persons will receive a flat monthly payment of [EC]$330 per month over a period of six months. Payment will commence during the last week of May 2020,” he stated, after which he directed Grenadians to submit their applications online as part of physical distancing measures.

‘Not unique to Grenada’

Cromwell reasoned that offering the unemployment benefit is not unique to Grenada because similar packages are being discussed and implemented by several regional social security systems (SSS).

While justifying the NIS’ position, he said, “It is important to note that the SSS in the region are at various stages of sustainability and the ability to support such a programme may vary significantly. What sets Grenada apart is that we are not paying for three months like most of the other social security systems in the region. This programme will run for six months.”

The NIS 2020 offering is similar to the unemployment benefit package provided in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Cromwell explained that contributors were not contributing towards an unemployment benefit but the National Insurance Board and NIS family understanding the hardships faced by contributors, and they believe the coronavirus pandemic presents an excellent opportunity and vehicle to serve customers during a difficult period.

The Government of Grenada has not yet announced the number of workers who have lost jobs and income due to the COVID-19 measures; however, thousands claim to be affected directly and indirectly.

Notwithstanding, the Government has announced a stimulus package aimed at assisting with payroll support of workers in the hospitality sector as well as financial support to workers in the agricultural sector.