Hundreds of men and women in Belize have been laid off, terminated or sent home indefinitely over the last week. The actions by employers and business owners are the result of the COVID-19 pandemic that has reached Belize. One of the concerns of the employees at this time has to do with their social security benefits. The question for those who had been paying their contributions and are now unemployed is whether they would still be able to receive sickness benefits in the event they are plagued with COVID-19. Appearing on The Morning Show to address several Social Security concerns were the Chairman, Doug Singh, and the Marketing Director, Chandra Nisbet Cansino.
Doug Singh, Chairman, Social Security Board: “While COVID-19 is covered there are rules under which you can receive these benefits. For example you have to have been employed for thirteen weeks prior to the illness to the filing that is – sorry, at least five contributions between that thirteen week period so they are saying if you have a break in service if somebody was involuntarily let go as a result of what’s going on, you’re a waiter, you work at a hotel ,you’re a tour guide whatever the circumstances you’ve lost your income but you were a regular contributor now there’s nothing to contribute will I be able to qualify for benefits ? We’ve agreed yesterday at the Government Task Force to propose a statutory instrument that will amend the requirement that says if you were employed up to the point and as a result of COVID-19 you lost your source of revenue the period under which that will be considered for your qualifying sets of circumstances will be right just before then so that people don’t lose benefits as a result of being displaced at this point in time. No one needs additional stress during these times and I think this goes a long way in relieving people’s fear that if I do get ill I’ll be able to get the kind of coverage I need. It’s essentially agreed it’s just now getting the proper language in place.”
Chandra Cansino, Social Security Board: “Again this is new information that I am just getting today as well.”
Doug Singh, Chairman, Social Security Board: “And I need to be careful with this, this is information that we’re going to flesh out and provide more details tomorrow at the press conference it was just agreed upon yesterday with the proposal so it’s new for everyone out there in particular the staff at SSB and we don’t want them to be overly concerned about this because what we’re trying to do is to ensure that the decisions we make minimize the impact on them especially when it comes to contact with the public.”
According to Cansino, the SSB staff has been in meetings up to late last night where some decisions were made regarding sickness benefit claims. She explained that the claims can be submitted physically at the branches and deposited into the drop boxes at each branch.
Chandra Cansino, Social Security Board: “Some of these updates are new, we were in meetings up until yesterday evening I think the chairman was in meetings up until last night so some of what I will say is going to be new even to our staff who have been really working very hard so I beg their indulgence since this might be the first time that they will be hearing some of these changes but effective today all sickness benefits claims must be deposited via Social Security’s dropboxes across the country. So if you have sickness benefit claim there’s no need for you to go into the office you would deposit the claim in the dropboxes and we’ll be emptying those on a regular basis. Also we have a facility for submitting your claims online and so you can submit your claims by email, give us an image of the claim with the medical certificate and your information and you can send that to email@example.com . Now all of this is new so we will be taking to our social media and other forums to be giving more information on all of this starting today but these are some of the changes that we are making in the immediate future.”