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Backlog of sickness benefits due to COVID-19

There is a backlog of sickness benefits claims that the Ministry of Health is sifting through to get to the Social Security Board.  The Covid-19 pandemic has not only increased the number of unemployed persons but has also added to the pile of sickness claims.  With an overview on how much the SSB has paid out in claims we join Renee Trujillo for that report.

As at October 28 2020 Belize has registered 3,261 confirmed cases of covid-19. This is over a period of thirty one and a half weeks since police first detected a case on March 23. 

Data from the Ministry of Health has shown that more than half of that figure has recovered. What is interesting however is that a mere 1,012 persons have submitted claims for sickness benefits at the Social Security Board. According to Chandra Cansino the SSB has since paid out just under half a million dollars with these claims either from those who have had to have been isolated or those who have had tested positive. 

Chandra Cansino, General Manager, Corporate Customer Relation, Social Security Board: We do expect this number to rise significantly over the weeks and months. The Ministry of Health is significantly overwhelmed and so they are a little bit or maybe a lot behind in the filling out of these sickness benefit claims.” 

The sickness benefit claims submitted are not only from persons who are ailing with covid-19 but also from those who have had to take leave from work to be in isolation Cansino told our newsroom that with the covid-19 pandemic the Social Security Board had to take all aspects into consideration. 

Chandra Cansino, General Manager, Corporate Customer Relation, Social Security Board: “In regards to the 1,012 cases or claims for sickness of that amount 459 of those claims are for persons who are in isolation. Only 411 of those claims are for persons who are actually positive for covid-19.  103 of those claims are for persons who are under the label “virus not yet identified” so those are more than likely highly suspicious cases waiting on test results Etc and 23 of them are for persons who have been identified as contacts or exposures. That is to say that we cover all of those things under sickness benefit as long as it is certified by the Ministry of Health. You asked about the private and public sector of those 1,012 cases, 958 of those cases medical certificates were issued in the public sector and 38 of those medical certificates were issued in the private sector.”

For now the sickness payouts made in 2019 compared to 2020 have not seen a significant difference. It is anticipated however that as the weeks progress the pressure may mount on the SSB. 

Chandra Cansino, General Manager, Corporate Customer Relation, Social Security Board:For a January to September 2019 Social Security paid out ten million six hundred and thirty three thousand ninety four dollars for sickness benefits and for the period January to September 2020 we paid out ten million six hundred and thirty six five hundred and ninety dollars. So up to September there is no significant change in the amount being paid out. However, all of these cases or these medical certificates, the majority of them are being or have been submitted after – from August to now and as I explained there is a lag time in the completion of these medical certificates so these numbers will change significantly in the near future. The number of claims for covid and covid related illnesses are increasing but it’s notable that other sickness benefit claims for other illnesses are decreasing particularly the one day, two day sickness benefit claims that we used to get in abundance we are getting a lower amount of those. Of course it can be attributable to the gross decrease in employment during this period which I guess would slowly increase but so far social security has been able to manage the inflow of cases for covid-19 and covid-19 related illnesses.”

According to Cansino the increase in claims was noted over the last six weeks.

Cansino went on to inform the public of the claims that contributors and beneficiaries are allowed to make to SSB.

Chandra Cansino, General Manager, Corporate Customer Relation, Social Security Board: “We also have the breakdown for benefits under that 1,012 cases. We have 996 of those are sickness claims which for the break down for which I gave you earlier thirteen of them are funeral grants, two of them are survivors pensions and one of them is a survivors grant. So we’re already paying benefits for unfortunate victims of covid-19 that passed away as well as their survivors. We also, the funeral grant and this is just an aside you know maybe persons need to check with our office if they qualify for these benefits because for example if you have a child or a minor that succumbs to covid-19 or any illness for that matter if you are a contributing parent you may be able to qualify for a grant of $500 and so this is an opportunity for people to become more aware of the qualifying conditions for some of these benefits for Social Security. We have all the information out there but you know how it goes it’s not all the time that people are in touch as much as they would like to be and so we encourage persons to visit our Social Security Facebook page, we have a Youtube Channel and both the Facebook page and Youtube Channel and the website we have videos that explain to you in greater detail how to submit your claim online so we encourage persons to use those avenues. If you have questions message us we reply instantly to the Whatsapp messages during working hours and so we are available via many channels now as Social Security and so we encourage persons to reach out to us as much as they possibly can.”