Gov’t to assist tourism workers who lose jobs during coronavirus crisis

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has said that the Government is taking steps to safeguard the welfare of tourism workers, as the country deals with the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

To date, Jamaica has recorded 19 confirmed cases of the virus and has implemented air and sea port travel restrictions.

“This is a difficult time, we all understand what is happening in the global space and that tourism is the first casualty, because of how vulnerable we are to travel. However, the Government is taking steps to ensure that there is a cash grant to each person who has lost his or her job as a result of COVID-19,” Bartlett told JIS News.

With the disruption in travel, and the global spread of the virus, the minister said that it will require “understanding and patience” from tourism workers.

Riu is among hotels chains that have closed properties in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

The minister said that tourism stakeholders fully understand the adverse effect of COVID-19, but are also keen on having an appropriate package to enable them to deal with the cash flow problems that they would have experienced as a result of the virus. “I think part of the problem too is that quite a bit of the earnings that would have come from the winter—which is usually the strongest period for earning—wouldn’t come because the season is truncated in March…and also that some of them have accounts receivable from their overseas partners that they may not get at this time. So, there is a need for consideration in terms of a stimulus package, which the minister [of finance] is outlining and I’m sure will put together for assistance,” said Bartlett.

Fiscal measures being implemented by the Government to cushion the economic impact of Covid-19 include: discussions with commercial banks for them to provide temporary cash flow support to businesses and consumers in affected sectors through deferral of principal payments; new lines of credit and introduction of the COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) programme.

The CARE programme has four elements: introduction of the Business Employee Support and Transfer of Cash (BEST Cash), which will provide temporary cash transfer to businesses in targeted sectors based on the number of workers they keep employed; and 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-19 case in Jamaica), and this will be available for a specific period. The third element is a special soft loan fund to assist individuals and businesses that have been hard hit; and supporting the poor and vulnerable with special COVID related grants.