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Unemployment Relief Program ‘closed for now’

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Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2020. 8:33 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Unemployment Relief Program is shuttered after taking a staggering 81 thousand-plus applications in just about a month.

Nearly half of those have been approved for payment, but many more remain to be sorted.

Recipients get twice-a-month payments – $150 for jobs lost due to the closing of business in the COVID-19 pandemic; $100 for longer-term unemployed persons – but there have been hiccups to say the least.

Some applicants have not had their applications squared away with employers; others have had to scramble to clarify their banking arrangements; still others have left out key information.

For context, at the time of the last Labour Force survey by the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), the overall Labour Force – those 14 years of age and older who were not in school, infirm, pregnant, etc. – numbered more than 190,000, of whom 170,000-plus were employed by the SIB definition – working at least one hour per week during the time surveyed. But a significantly fewer number pay Social Security.

Either way, said P.M. Barrow, “In any event 80 or 80 odd thousand applications is a whole lot and what I understood from Dr. Barnett the process of screening the applications was becoming hellishly difficult, because it appeared that a fair amount of the latest batch of applications was bogus and naturally, it slows down the entire process, because they come 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, see if it has not reach a point where the majority of the late applications in fact is from people that don’t qualify. If that turns out to be less, if the fraud or the attempt at fraud turns out to be less than we currently believe it is, then we wheel and come again.”

Those who have already applied and want to check on their status can visit the COVID-19 portal at www.covid19.bz.

 

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