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A Resolution seeking an increase in the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) funeral grant from $40,000 to $50,000, was passed in the Senate on December 15.
Leader of Government Business in the Senate, A. J. Nicholson said that, “based on the review of the actuarial evaluation and after consultation with the Ministry of Finance and Planning, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security recommended to Cabinet that a further increase in the funeral grant from $40,000 to $50,000 be implemented with effect from January1, 2007”.
Senator Nicholson, who is also Minister of Justice and Attorney General, informed the Senate that funeral grant benefits were periodically increased under the NIS, citing adjustments in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2003.
“With a projected increase of two per cent in the number of claims made each year, it is expected that the increase in the value of the grant will see additional expenditure from the National Insurance Fund of approximately $280 million over the next five years,” said Mr. Nicholson.
He added that the actuaries have confirmed that this level of increase could be sustained by the NIS, without jeopardizing its ability to meet future obligations.
Since the start of this year, there have been 4,355 claims for funeral grants, with the number of claims projected to reach at least 4,500 by the end of the calendar year.
Senator Nicholson said that improvements have been made to the service delivery mechanisms at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to ensure that the majority of these claims are processed within five working days.
He pointed out that effective April 3, 2006, all benefits payable under the National Insurance Scheme, were increased following affirmative resolution in Parliament. The Minister added that most of the benefits were increased by 66 2/3 per cent, with a 331/3 per cent increase in the funeral grant from $30,000 to $40,000. “During the debate that preceded the Parliamentary affirmation of the new rates, concerns were raised by members regarding the level of increase in the funeral grant. The consensus among members was that the grant was insufficient to meet the rising cost of funerals,” informed Senator Nicholson.
He added that the former Minister of Labour and Social Security, Horace Dalley had assured members in the House of Representatives that the “matter will be reviewed”.
Senator Nicholson stressed that the funeral grant provided under the NIS was not meant to “cover all expenses that are attached to a funeral”.
“What the grant is meant to do is to provide some financial support for the bereaved family. It is not and was never intended to cover all the funeral expenses of the deceased, as some persons probably believe,” he said.
The funeral grant offered by the NIS is payable on the death of an NIS pensioner or a dependent spouse. The grant may also be paid on the passing of a current NIS contributor or his or her spouse, where the contributor has met certain qualifying conditions.