Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke, says payments that are outstanding under two components of the Government’s $10-billion COVID-19 Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Programme, are expected to be made during December.
Speaking during a media briefing on Thursday (December 10), Clarke noted that some payments under the Supporting Employees with the Transfer of Cash (SET Cash) and Business Employee Support and Transfer of Cash (BEST Cash) Programmes for the three-month period from September to November have not yet been made.
This, he noted, was partly due to the incompletion of the processing of payments for beneficiaries.
“But I have been assured that the processing will be completed for all those payments… for September, October and November, to be made in the month of December,” the minister said.
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The SET Cash Programme provides grants for workers with taxable income of up to $1.5 million, who were laid off or lost their jobs as at March 10 when the first confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) case was recorded in Jamaica.
The BEST Cash component provides grants to support businesses in tourism and related sectors in retaining employees whose taxable income is $1.5 million, or less.
Approximately 50,000 persons have been receiving stipends under both components since the payments commenced mid-year. The outstanding CARE Programme provides temporary cash transfers to individuals and businesses to cushion the economic fallout from the pandemic.
It forms part of the Government’s $25-billion stimulus in response to the global health crisis. Approximately 435,000 Jamaicans have benefited under the overall CARE Programme, which also provided compassionate and general grants, which was initiated in April.
Clarke noted that the Government’s ability to respond quickly to the fallout was partly due to the accumulation of cash reserves, equating to four per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), which resulted from fiscal over-performance arising mainly from the reintegration of Public Bodies and divestment of State-owned enterprises.
He pointed out that the Administration planned to use those reserves to accelerate Jamaica’s debt payments, in order to create greater fiscal space in the economy over the medium-term. The minister said that “the pandemic interrupted those plans”.
“It was, however, good that those resources existed because it allowed us to have a policy response, even in the face of declining revenues, to put Jamaica in a place where the prospect of economic growth for next year would be elevated,” he noted.
Clarke further said the extension of the SET and BEST Cash Programmes duration from three to nine months “speaks to the ability the Government has shown to help cushion the impact of the crisis with [the provision of fiscal] support”.