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Unemployment Relief Program to continue “for as long as it will take” after new tourism shock

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Posted: Friday, May 29, 2020. 7:25 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Despite issues with the Unemployment Relief Program (URP), Government still has a healthy reserve of funds, and the program can and may be expanded to meet further layoffs in the tourism industry.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow says Government has only spent $11 million, not counting the $10 million taken for the Food Assistance Program. The total amount is $75 million borrowed from the Central Bank of Belize.

The Government expects and has projected for additional layoffs in the tourism industry as well as longer-term unemployed, following news that the borders and airport will remain closed to tourists for the near future. The Prime Minister conceded that “some unemployed will be with us always” as Belize has never had full employment, but as many as can be assisted will be for as long as it will take for the tourism industry to reopen.

The Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is working to identify funding for the tourism sector and an interest line is available from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) subject to lowering of interest rates, according to its General Manager Natalie Ewing-Goff, and the Prime Minister says he will negotiate that personally and he expects successfully. Assistance will also be procured from the European Investment Bank (EIB), limited to 50 percent and mostly to do with climate change and “going green” initiatives, but DFC hopes to argue to expand that to 75 percent and wider assistance.

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