The Government is allocating another $30 million in funding to deal with those financially ruined by COVID-19.
This according to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley who speaking at a news conference in Tobago on Saturday, updated the COVID-19 restrictions being observed.
Despite expectations of an ease of the ban on in-house consumption in bars, he stated that this measure would remain in place.
Sale of alcohol remains permissible but congregation and consumption in bars will continue to be prohibited.
However, for bar and restaurant workers affected by these measures, he said, an additional $10 million will be made available through the Ministry of Finance.
For bar and restaurant owners who have lost business, he asked that they make themselves available to the funding provided by the Government for small businesses. Once identified these applicants will be treated with urgency, he said.
“I will ask the Minister of Finance to find an additional $10 million specifically to treat employees who work in bars and restaurants and who have lost their jobs or who have suffered a reduction in their income. For the owners or bars and restaurants who have lost or are losing their business I would ask them to identify themselves to the monies that we have made available ...the Government will ensure that their applications are treated with some element of alacrity,” he said.
For self-employed persons whose businesses have suffered as a result of the pandemic, he said, an additional $20 million will be made available through the Ministry of Social Development and family services. This $20 million, he said, is to cover those affected by the loss of jobs and those who are severely financially affected in a “non-job related,” way.
Referencing persons who attempted to defraud the Government’s relief efforts, he said that these persons will face the full brunt of the law.
He also called on the public service to exhibit compassion in dealing with persons in this situation.
“For those who are suffering additional hardship we have a Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, we have allocations to that Ministry and that Ministry will treat applications for persons who are not applying in the context of the loss of jobs but plain and simply can't make ends meet. I have asked the Ministry of Finance to find an additional $20 million for the social services department.”
“I know that some public servants are not as empathetic as they should be when people come to you and tell you I need help. I am not asking you to break the law or to be loose listed. I simply ask the public servant who would be responsible for dispersing these assistance programs to be empathetic to the people who come to you. They might make a mistake here or there and the smart man or woman might get away but it is better that the smart man and smart woman get away than for children to go hungry in our population,” he said.
The Prime Minister announced a few eased restrictions that include the allowance of food services in casinos and the reopening of the hunting season.
He added that proposals were made by Caribbean Airlines to facilitate early result COVID testing and increase flights. These proposals, he said, would be considered by the Ministry of Health.
Following the Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh’s pleas to the private sector to refrain from hosting Christmas celebrations, he stated that he would instruct the public sector to do the same.
“As head of the Government I will join the Minister who spoke to the private sector. I will instruct the head of the public service on Monday to instruct the Ministries of Government Departments and through the Ministry of Finance, to instruct state enterprises as part of our virus control response that there is to be no state sponsored or any Christmas party in the public sector in 2020. While we acknowledge the birth of Christ and have been doing so for centuries in 2020 let us do it without partying,” he said.