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Going inside the Unemployment Relief Program (Part 1): Conclusions and what happens next

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Posted: Friday, June 12, 2020. 1:12 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Government of Belize appears to be giving strong consideration toward extending the Unemployment Relief Program, even if it is apparently satisfied that those most qualified to receive relief in its first phase have done so.

In a press release issued Thursday evening, a five-page summary of the successes and setbacks of the program was enumerated. We will have further details in subsequent stories.

Chief among its conclusions was that attention needed to be paid to priority categories of the unemployed which may change as the pandemic’s effects on the economy shake out.

The researchers suggest an objective of mixing the social safety net and employment protection. As the program morphs from simply providing minimum income to newly unemployed, consideration can be given to ensuring employment retention, for instance, paying employers directly per employee retained so they can in turn pay employees – and their Social Security contributions.

Small businesses, the report says, need to be brought in either under the URP or separately, as many are owner-operated and do not pay contributions to the Social Security Board as self-employed, nor are part of the banks or credit unions. “A structured program to provide emergency financing to small business and to offer business support is key to keeping this sector alive as the economy grows,” the statement says.

And lastly, if the program is extended, it should be located within a relevant Government ministry (most likely the Ministry of Human Development or possibly Finance) for greater institutional support, and creating more payment agents in addition to the beleaguered Board.



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