Scores of people turned up at the National Insurance Board’s (NIB) Arima office yesterday to access grants promised by the Government to those who have lost jobs due to ­COVID-19 containment measures. However, they were turned away and told the grant had not yet been ­operationalised.

Before 8 a.m. there were long lines outside NIB at Shoppes of Arima and at Woodford Street. People were eventually told that as soon as the salary relief grant is made available they would be informed.

Reacting to this scenario in a media release at 2.44 p.m. yesterday, NIB advised that the Salary Relief Grant is not available from the board at this time.

“Please do not visit our offices to enquire about this facility, as large gatherings pose a serious risk to our employees, customers and members of the public. We understand your needs and value your cooperation,” the ­release added.

Earlier, at 10.57 a.m., the NIB issued a release acknowledging the provision of the Salary Relief Grant, as announced at the Office of the Prime Minister, which “will allow citizens, who have lost income as a result of the implementation of ­COVID-­19 measures, to be able to access $1,500 per month over a three-month period”.

The NIB also advised then as soon as this facility is available and operationalised, further public communication would follow. This was also posted as a notice at NIB offices.

Penniless, frustrated

A tearful and disappointed casino security guard who visi­ted the NIB’s Woodford Street office told the Express the grant would be her only financial help, as she and other employees were sent home last week.

The woman said she was employed as an estate constable at Five Star Casino in Trincity Mall, and was sent home after the casino closed its doors as a COVID-19 precautionary measure, as directed by the Government.

“Right now I don’t know what to do. Right now I real frustrated because I’m not working and I can’t even get my food card because they misplaced it. I got a letter saying that my new food card was ready, but when I went to collect it they told me that someone else collected it. I have two secondary school boys who are home—one is 13 and one is 15. I’m living with my grandmother, who is 87 years old,” she said.

“Look I have an old $100 bill here. I wish somebody could change it for me because this is all I have right now,” she added.

The woman said she visited NIB’s Shoppes of Arima office and received the disappointing news that she could not yet ­access the salary relief grant. She said she then decided to visit NIB on Woodford Street, hoping to get through.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert on Monday announced the Government will pay a salary relief grant of up to $1,500 to all persons who are temporarily unemployed or displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Imbert said the salary relief grant will cost the Government $400 million over the next three months in the first instance, and would be administered through NIB “in the first instance” because it has a PAYE database.

But, he said, the grant would be open to persons outside of this database, such as domestic workers and other employees who are not on the NIS ­database.

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