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Going inside the Unemployment Relief Program (Part 3): Who made it, who didn’t and why

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Posted: Saturday, June 13, 2020. 3:35 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Unemployment Relief Program (URP), according to a report for the Economic Oversight Committee, drew more applications than apparently expected, even with weeding out improper and frivolous applications.

$15.8 million including approximately $133,000 in bank charges was paid out to date. Projected payments for 3 months to those who have been approved so far total $34.1 million.  If all remaining applications were to be approved, the total costs would approximate $66 million to pay every applicant for a 3-month period.

This works out to $150 every 2 weeks for recently unemployed persons and $100 every 2 weeks for the long term unemployed.  Once an applicant has been approved, they would receive the relief payment every two weeks for a 12-week/3-month period.

Started on March 16 by joint agreement of the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition as co-chairs of the National COVID-19 Oversight Committee, the Program dealt with providing minimum income both to those unemployed or had salaries cut by COVID-19 related effects and long-term unemployed persons, focusing at first on tourism and allied services.

On the basis that qualified beneficiaries of the Covid-19 Response Fund should have fair, equitable and convenient access; persons who should not be paid from this Fund should not be allowed to receive payments from it, and the application, review and approval processes must be quick and effective given the emergency situation, the designers projected for at least 40,000 applications from jobs lost in tourism (20,000) and elsewhere (20,000) and unemployment statistics (approximately 10-15 thousand in a labour force of close to 200,000).

However, 81,052 applied between April 3 and 24, a vast majority online including three thousand who submitted both hard copy and online. This figure does not count 1,800 persons excluded as a result of being on previous Government-run programs (BOOST and SSB and Gov’t pensions;) 1,100 who were under 18 or applied with birth date errors (claiming to born in 2020 or the 1800s); and 350 duplicate applications with variations in the Social Security Number.

Some 34,400 were not approved because of failure to provide basic information including contact information for employers or the nature of their work for self-employed persons. From this group, 4,200 “recently unemployed” applicants provided no employer information; 9,300 self-employed/independent contractors gave no information on the nature of their work; 1,800 self employed/independent contractors said they were vendors but gave no further information; and 9,000 long term unemployed, who of course could not give details of when they were last employed.

That left 44,552 approved applications as of June 5, including 4,750 vendors of food, art and craft, clothes, etc. Approximately 45% of these were recently laid off persons; 24% were self-employed persons who lost their work; and 31% applied as long-term unemployed persons.

About 94% of all approved applications have been successfully paid.  The remaining 6% have been returned as “unpayable” due to bank information problems and attempts continue to obtain correct payment information from applicants.  These approximately 3,000 applicants have been offered access to TopUp cards and they are sending in their acceptance of this offer.

Tourism accounted for most of the applications at 13,150, including 1738 Tour Guides (Tour Guides, Fishing Guides, zipline staff); 2114 wait staff (servers, bartenders etc.); 2323 kitchen staff (chefs/cooks, dishwashers etc); and many others in guest/customer services, housekeeping, maintenance and upkeep, etc. The next largest category was long-term unemployed at 8,792, followed by other services at 7,222 (5611 persons in “food service” reflecting the small restaurants/fast and food establishments, bars, caterers etc.; 991 barbers and cosmetologists; 373 entertainers and events staff); Other Self-employed, 6,655; Transportation, 3,601 (748 bus drivers/conductors; 1297 taxi drivers; 326 airlines/airport services staff); Construction, 2,291 (masons, welders and other construction workers primarily, but not only, on tourism projects); Agriculture and Fisheries, 1,239 (including 1,162 fishermen); Others laid off, 660; Manufacturing, 443; Retail Sector, 398; and Industrial, 101. The numbers are being finetuned and will be updated.


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