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Ministry of Labor explains issues with Unemployment Relief Fund

As Belize experiences a second wave of Covid-19, the government continues its relief programme aimed at helping those severely affected by the economic downturn. The programme is in its second phase began on August 3. 

As Belize experiences a second wave of Covid-19, the government continues its relief programme aimed at helping those severely affected by the economic downturn. The programme is in its second phase began on August 3.  Since then applications have been made available on the Covid-19 website. According to the Minister of State in the Ministry of Labor, Dr Carla Barnett, within one week they have received forty-nine thousand applications. Even with that huge number of applicants there are still some who are struggling to apply for the program. Dr Barnett was on today’s edition of Ask the Experts where she explained some of the issues that have been reported to them and what they are doing to solve the issues.

Dr. Hon.Carla Barnett, Minister of Labor: “The singular one that we get the most notifications, requests, asking for help is where people are getting a message that says their number is already in the system when they’ve already filled out their application and think that their inputting it for the first time. What we’re discovering is that once people have completed filling out their form sometimes when they press they get a little enthusiastic and they don’t press once they press twice well it’s the second pressing that the response is coming from because you cannot send the application more that once so that’s the issue there. And the second issue that we’re getting, several people have called in staff about it and even the guys at CITO are telling me a couple people have called to say they’re having an issue with the number of middle names that they have. So a person might have two middle names and both middle names are on the card but they might not be in the system the way you are inputting it so I tell people there are only a limited number of ways you can try to put in your middle name and your last name or sometimes it’s two last names – women sometimes have two last names but Social Security Board may have one as a middle name and so you have to sort that through and sometimes it’s trial and error to find exactly how it is in the system but the reality is that one of the biggest changes that we’ve made to the system that will allow us to not have so many errors in terms of input of name and Social Security number is that you have to put in your correct name and your correct Social Security number and your correct birth date for you to move past that screen and go to input an application. If you move past that screen it means that nobody has used your number before. If you move past that screen and go to the end of the application process and then get back that you’ve applied already it’s because you pressed two times so those are really the big questions that we get from people making applications.”

Another initiative that was rolled out earlier this month was the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) program. This program provides loans and grants to businesses that qualify as micro, small or medium in order for them to retain their employees. The loans are to help with their working capital, which encompasses payroll, maintenance, and any other recurring expense. The applications were made available last week Monday, but just like the Unemployment Relief Fund, there have been some issues for persons trying to apply. Dr Leroy Almendarez, the Executive Director of BELTRAIDE, they are trying to iron out the kinks.

Dr.Leroy Alemendarez, Executive Director of BELTRAIDE

Dr.Leroy Alemendarez, Executive Director of BELTRAIDE: “You were finding people who were the same thing you started the application and the application was incomplete and again, sometimes either they press or connectivity was lost and if connectivity was lost then it means that the application would have gone but what we’re doing because we can provide back-end support and get into the system during this first 21 days because it’s 21 days the application period is 21 days so during this period you’re still getting assistance. As a matter of fact, all these glitches that were finding were sending them off to CITO, working along with Edata which is preparing the system. So that was one of the main challenges we also found of course as Minister Barnett said social security number has been used before. Now every time you enter your information that becomes a record even if it’s an incomplete record so that again those things have been fixed. We still continue to find challenges. We have five million that’s allocated for loans that’s between the small and medium and 2.5 for grants. This 2.5 million allocation this would be able to assist at least 1000 micro Enterprises.”

The Unemployment Relief Fund remains at one hundred and fifty dollars every two weeks for three months. Persons who lost their jobs prior to Covid-19 no longer qualify for this program, but instead should apply for the assistance given by the Ministry of Human Development.