The portal for unemployment relief program closed on April 24, meaning that if you did not apply for financial aid, chances are you won’t be getting the help. At the time of the closure, an estimated eighty one thousand applications were submitted with over thirty five thousand being approved and almost three point five million dollars disbursed. As we have been reporting in previous newscasts, thousands of those applications have clogged up the process as they were submitted by unqualified individuals. This created challenges for the human resources which led to the closing of the portal. Prime Minister Dean Barrow explained the situation and rationale for the closure.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “Eight or eighty odd thousand is whole lot and what I understood from Dr. Barnette the process of screening the applications was becoming hellishly difficult because it appeared that the fair amount of the latest batch of applications was bogus and naturally it slows down the entire process because they come in you have to at least give them the benefit of the doubt and screen them. So I believe what was said is that it’s closed for now step, back take a breath look at indeed what’s been coming in and see if it has not reached a point where the majority of the late applications is in fact from people that don’t qualify, if that turns out to be less and I might as well call it by it’s name if the attempt of fraud turns out to be less than we currently believe it is then we will wheel and come again.”
As with several other issues in the COVID-19 relief efforts, the opposition has come out swinging once again, condemning the closure of the portal. The party issued a release this afternoon expressing upset at the government for the delays in issuing monies to those who have applied. The unemployment relief fund is not the only point of contention for the PUP. Their release goes on to state, quote, “74% of Belizeans were being rejected from the food assistance program, which is a separate program aimed at providing food items to those in need. Despite having $10 million budgeted for this program, there are still many who are left high and dry. With all this, the PUP noted that COVID-19 has revealed the real state of unemployment in Belize and not the unemployment statistics boasted by the government at every turn. This is less, the doing of any COVID-19 pandemic and more the result of a systemic governance failure, chronic corruption and unchecked gluttony by those trusted to lead the nation. Similar to the information on testing uttered to Belizeans on a daily basis, the numbers for COVID 19 relief and food assistance programs simply do not add up.” End of quote.