As Saint Lucia remains under a State of Emergency, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has announced that the NIC Economic Relief Programme has been extended for three more months until September 30th.
In a post on his official Facebook page on June 30th, 2020, the prime minister admitted that there had been “some challenges with the Economic Relief Programme”. He went on to assure all Saint Lucians that the Government of Saint Lucia and the National Insurance Corporation was committed to seeing those issues being rectified, in order to “provide a level of relief to Saint Lucians in these unprecedented times”.
“We must remember that the NIC decided to establish an Economic Relief Programme (ERP) to help its contributors who are negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic to cushion the effects of the crisis,” the prime minister said. “We have seen over the last three months many businesses closed, thousands of persons laid off while others have suffered significant loss of income.”
“The programme provides for the payment of a monthly sum equivalent to fifty percent (50%) of the insurable earnings of an affected insured person subject to a minimum of Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) and a maximum of One Thousand Five Hundred ($1,500.00) for a period of up to three (3) months, in the first instance i.e. April to June 2020. These amounts are subject to deductions for financial assistance or any income received from the employer. As at June 25, 2020, the Corporation has paid the sum of $12,129,332.29 (12.12 million dollars) to 15,096 insured persons affected, at an average of $803.48.”
Prime Minister Chastanet added that while the programme had been intended for an initial period of three months, “it was always the intention of the NIC to consider extending the programme once the qualifying conditions were met.”
“The National Insurance Board considered the ongoing adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the business sector including the hotel sector which employs a significant percentage of its contributors,” Chastanet noted. “Having satisfied itself that a sufficiently large number of its contributors would require some relief over the next three months, the NIC examined the affordability of the programme. It would be recalled that the NIC’s decision to implement such a programme was rooted in sound financial and actuarial analysis and foremost in the mind of the Corporation was the need to ensure that the long term financial sustainability of the NIC was not compromised. It would also be recalled that the NIC considered a number of scenarios and that the worst-case scenario for a 3-month period, if claims were received from 60 percent of contributors, was $80.2 million.”
The prime minister’s Facebook post ended with him making it known that the NIC had reported that the overall cost for a six-month programme would still be within the costs that were initially predicted for a worst case scenario that extended the original three months stipulated. NIC had also indicated previously that there was no intention of going beyond six months with the economic relief program.
“What this means is that with a three-month extension, the depletion of the Fund will not exceed the seven months previously reported by the NIC. Given those two key factors – the business impact and the cost of the programme – and taking into account its mandate to provide income support to its contributors, the Board of the NIC decided to extend the Economic Relief Programme by three month to September 2020.”
Meanwhile, many Saint Lucians still have not received economic relief under the program which NIC has attributed to incorrect information being uploaded to the portal, while others have reported having received monies from the NIC only for April. Still more have shared publicly that they received way below the minimum $500 which had been put forth.
The prime minister’s post ended with him saying that his administration was “pleased to support this extension and the requisite regulations have been enacted to give effect to it and provide some kind of relief for Saint Lucians.”