Market vendors, taxi men, barbers and hairdressers, among others in the informal sector who are hard hit by the coronavirus (COVID-19), are to benefit from financial support.
Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, said that the Government is working on a programme that will provide financial assistance for persons who may not be formally employed but are incurring losses due to the virus.
He was speaking at a COVID-19 Digital Town Hall on Thursday (March 26).
Dr. Clarke said the Government recognises that “there are several persons in Jamaica who are informally employed, in the craft market for instance, who have no business now. We know that bars are shut, hairdressers and barbers have less business, and taxi men have less people to transport, so, we’re working on a programme for this broad group of persons”.
“We have reserved a sum that we will be transferring to address this segment and a sum that we can supplement with reallocation of expenditure,” he added.
Dr. Clarke informed that the Government will provide a grant to persons in these categories who can be verified through registration authorities.
He noted, for example, that market vendors are required to pay a fee to their municipal authority, and all persons up to date with their fees will be able to make an application for the grant, with details provided on their trade and stall numbers.
After those are matched with what their respective municipal authority provides, a payment will be prepared. “We will do a similar thing with craft vendors,” he said.
“We are designing an intervention approach to assist those who are in the business of operating bars, and here again, bars are required to have a tavern licence or a spirit licence,” Dr. Clarke noted.
“All those who have evidence of making an application, evidence as in the money they have paid over for an application, we will get that list and have the unique identifiers for all the operators. Once we can verify that the applicant is on the list of bars in good standing, then a payment will be processed,” he outlined.
Minister Clarke said that the Government intends to assist other entrepreneurs and their employees hard hit by COVID-19.
Through the Business Employee Support and Transfer of Cash Programme (BEST Cash) programme, registered small operators in tourism and other sectors will benefit from support.
“What we are saying to those businesses is, for every employee you retain who is below the income tax threshold of $1.5 million, which represents the vast number of employees in that sector, we, the Government, will transfer an amount of $9,000 per fortnight paid monthly for the months of April, May and June,” Dr. Clarke said.
“This incentivises those businesses to keep their employees on their payroll,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the Finance Minister noted that the Supporting Employees with Transfer of Cash (SET Cash) programme will provide cash transfers to employees in any sector who have been dislocated from their jobs.
Employees will be required to fill out an application online.