More citizens are expressing disappointment at not receiving the promised salary grant.
Housekeeping employees of The Villas at Stonehaven at Black Rock, Tobago— Rackel Ayres and Sheldon Greene — told the Express they continue to be “disappointed” since they have not yet received the $1,500 salary relief grant to assist with their expenses during Covid-19.
An official from The Villas at Stonehaven said yesterday the hotel has not yet reopened.
“We sent the forms for all the staff. I don’t think anybody has gotten it yet,” the official said.
A total of seven housekeeping employees were sent home during the pandemic. They have not yet returned to work. Several Trinidadian counterparts said they too have not yet received the much-needed grant after they suffered loss or reduced income as a result of the pandemic from March 19, and which was supposed to help for three months.
In March, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced the implementation of a $400 million salary relief grant to assist citizens who suffered job losses or reduced income due to the Government’s Covid-19 restrictions.
Then on March 24 Imbert said 30,300 applications for salary relief grants were received, comprising 11,452 hand-delivered applications from TTPost locations, or 38 per cent of the total, and 18,758 applications received online by e-mail or 65 per cent of the total.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Ayres, who lives at Les Coteaux Village, said: “I have not worked since March 21. I have no money. All I got was one week’s vacation pay. I have a 16-year-old child and diabetic mother to take care off. My mother gets a disability grant but I can’t depend on her. I have to be independent, and also help her. She does help me where she can. But I am a grown woman. I was lucky in that before Covid-19, I had a food card. It’s tough.”
Plymouth resident Greene said: “They said that we would have to wait till they call us. We are still at home.” He also expressed his “hurt” at not having any income.
Greene said: “I hope if the three months passes they would not cancel it. I hope we can get some money. I am surviving because my wife is taking care of me but I want to share the bills, and the food expenses. I just wish we would get the grant. The rest of housekeeping is hoping to get the grant.”
In Trinidad, Laventille kindergarten teacher Candace George, who had also applied for the salary relief grant, said: “I checked yesterday (Thursday). It was not in my account.”
Webster-Roy: We’re assisting
Contacted for comment, Tobago East MP and Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ayanna Webster-Roy, said: “PM (Dr Keith Rowley) said 2,765 people would have received income, rental and food support; 1,127 applicants and 548 already paid, which is equivalent $2.83 million. We have been following with the different agencies (and they) are being processed.
Other people have been receiving assistance through the Social Development Ministry (Camille Robinson-Regis). I also communicate with the THA (Tobago House of Assembly) Chief Secretary (Ancil Dennis) when people have issues accessing the grants and information. Both Tobago East MP (Shamfa Cudjoe) and I have been distributing hampers. We have been assisting needy families with food support.”
Despite all the relief measures the Government has implemented to soften the impact of Covid-19 on individuals and businesses, there are those who remain dissatisfied and ungrateful.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley disputed complaints that nobody had received the salary relief, rental support and other grants.
Rowley was speaking during an interview on Tobago Channel 5’s Rise and Shine morning programme.
“Those who are receiving it are not saying anything because they have no reason to say anything. It is the ones who are not receiving who are saying they have not received. But very many people have received. Thousands of people have been receiving grants,” he said.
The PM however conceded there had been delays in the process, which he attributed to dishonesty and persons attempting to access grants under false pretences.
He later said based on information from the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services, 2,765 people in Tobago have received various Covid-19 relief grants to date.
Imbert: 19,000 have received grants
A total value of $26.3 million has been paid out to over 19,000 salary relief grant recipients, according to Imbert, as he provided an update on the status of the grant on his social media page yesterday.
“We have received 51,098 applications for persons within the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) system, of which just over 1,600 are from Tobago,” said Imbert. The Finance Ministry had uploaded application forms online and provided physical copies for pick-up at selected police stations in the second week of April.
Asked at a news conference last week if the Government intends extending the period for the grant, the minister noted that the salary relief grant was designed for a three-month period — part of March, April, May and June. He said: “If by the end of June, the Government sees the need to extend the grant for whatever reason, certainly it would be looked at.”