Belizeans who have applied for the Unemployment Relief Program will start seeing money in their bank accounts as early as today. Minister of State in the Ministry of Labor, Carla Barnett, was featured on today’s COVID-19 Update Show on Love FM and stated that since the program was rolled out about two weeks ago, the applications were piling in, but have recently slowed. She also gave an update as to how the many applications have already been processed.
Dr.Carla Barnett, Minister of State in the Ministry of Labor: “We’re almost at 64,000 applicants so far and that’s as we speak right now. I think the number that we approved up to the end of yesterday was 7,247 that’s the number that was put out in the press release. Since then over night and through this morning we’ve approved another just about 10,800 people and so the total number that approved so far is 18,129. Now those people who were approved they are in the process of the information going to Social Security Board so that the Social Security Board can make the payment so they should begin to see those payments in their account by the end of the day today through tomorrow because you know we have to send it in batches , that’s how it goes. So they will get that by tomorrow if the processing through the banking system works the way it should. They include recently unemployed people, people who would have been working through to February and part of March and includes long term unemployed as well people who would have been unemployed before this year who have not worked since this year began so we’ve approved a good portion to them as well.”
There has also been the question of whether it would have been more effective to distribute food items instead of money, especially considering many of the applicants do not have bank accounts. However, Barnett explained that might do more harm than good, since it would involve persons moving around, which could cause a larger spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Dr.Carla Barnett, Minister of State in the Ministry of Labor: “What we are doing here is not part of the food program, it’s not a substitute for that the food program is a different program. One of the realities is that everybody including the people that would have to go out and distribute food have to be careful about moving the virus from place to place. That is one constraints that even the delivery of the assistance is complicated by. People keep telling us ‘The virus doesn’t move by itself.’ somebody has to take it from place to place and so that has to be incorporated into how we deliver the service. One of the problems we are facing right now for example in delivering the unemployment relief is for those people who do not bank accounts how do we get the top up cards that we are getting prepared for them how do we get that to them because somebody has to move, somebody has to go pick them up bring them take them and every time somebody moves from point A to point B that’s the possibility of moving the virus along from point A to point B as well and that’s the purpose of the lock down, that’s the purpose of the quarantine to make sure that virus doesn’t move. So we’re having to figure out the best way to do this so we balance the needs of people with the requirements of the health protocol that is there to protect the same people so it’s an extremely complicated situation and we are trying to do the best we can to ensure that we don’t make even more complications in terms of moving virus along with people in trying to deliver service. So I know people are coming up with all kinds of alternatives in terms of setting up food banks this side and that side, in terms of sending out delivery trucks all over the country, every times those things move the virus can move and so one of the things that underlines a lot of what is happening right now is the need to not move the virus as we are trying to help people.”
The question was posed to Barnett if the circumstances surrounding Social Security Board’s ex-chairman, Doug Singh, would affect the disbursement of funds, but she stated that it would not since Singh was not directly responsible for that.