Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says tourism stakeholders have responded positively to the Government’s stimulus package for the sector, to cushion the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“The workers of the industry are very heartened by the action of the Government. In fact, they have been indicating their delight that something is being done. We are in the process of working out the details of it, but the feeling is one of hope, and the feeling is one of appreciation of the steps the Government is taking,” he told JIS News.
Government relief is being provided under the COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) programme. It covers four elements:
• The Business Employee Support and Transfer of Cash (BEST Cash) – which will provide temporary cash transfer to registered businesses that are operating in the hotel, tours, attractions and segments of the industry that are registered with the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), based on the number of workers that they keep employed, who are under the income tax threshold of $1.5 million.
To qualify, each tourism business will need to apply for the Best Cash, by filling out the required form online, and then file the payroll returns on the 15th of April, May and June. For the three months, the Government will provide $54,000 over the period for each employee that a beneficiary company retains, once their taxable income is below $1.5 million.
• Supporting Employees with Transfer of Cash (SET Cash) – which will provide temporary cash transfer to individuals where it can be verified that they lost their employment since March 10 (the date of the first COVID case in Jamaica), due to the virus, and this will be available for a specific period.
Applicants who are successful will receive payment at the rate of $9,000 per fortnight, paid monthly from the month of application until June, provided that the application is made before the cut-off point for that month.
• A special Soft Loan Fund to assist individuals and businesses that have been hard hit.
• A special COVID-related grant to support the poor and most vulnerable.
Meanwhile, the Tourism Ministry has been in discussion with key stakeholders in the industry to develop strategies to mitigate the impact of COVID 19.
Mr. Bartlett said meetings are being held virtually and the discussions, so far, have been fruitful.
He added that the team at the Ministry and the Crisis Management Council are working hard to ensure that Jamaica’s tourism sector recovers quickly.
“Hopefully, at the end of the day, we can come out with a better product and with a better understanding of the new realities. Then Jamaica would be in a position to take off ahead of anybody else, and that’s the objective,” the Minister said.