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Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, has announced that special grants will be disbursed to poor and vulnerable persons hard hit by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

“The full details of the programme are being finalised and will be announced next week when the Minister of Finance [and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke] closes the debate,” Mr. Holness said.

He was making his contribution to the 2020/21 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on Thursday (March 19).

The Prime Minister reiterated the programme of support for businesses and employees impacted by COVID-19, which was announced by Dr. Clarke in the House on Tuesday (March 17).

It includes temporary cash transfers to businesses, and will depend on the number of employees who are retained for the duration of the outbreak.

Provisions will also be made under the Supporting Employees with the Transfer of Cash (SET) Programme for persons who lose their jobs “where it can be verified that they lost their employment since the first case of COVID-19 in Jamaica and as a result of events related to the outbreak of the virus,” the Prime Minister noted.

In addition, Prime Minster Holness said that the rules will be relaxed to allow employees in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry to work from home.

“Under normal circumstances, Customs requires that BPO firms keep the equipment used in their operations physically at their place of business. However, the Government has waived this requirement until further notice,” he noted.

The Government will also be waiving customs duties on imported masks, hand sanitisers, gloves, and liquid hand soaps for 90-days, and the special consumption tax for inputs, such as alcohol, in the production of hand sanitisers for health facilities.

The Prime Minister’s Budget presentation was themed ‘Towards a Decade of Growth to Anchor Our Peace, Prosperity and Resilience’.

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