TORTOLA—Premier Andrew Fahie has rolled out a $62.9 Million COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Plan to help British Virgin Islands residents and businesses affected by the pandemic.
Fahie’s announcement, made during a radio address Thursday night, came two days after Health Minister Carvin Malone declared the BVI free of COVID-19, as there have been no new cases and no one is in quarantine.
In outlining the broad plan which targets jobless residents, hotels, taxi operators and struggling businesses among others, Fahie — who also serves as Finance Minister — said $40 million of the package is a grant from the Social Security Board (SSB). Another $17 million comes from SSB’s Affordable Housing Project, and a $2 million grant comes from undisclosed sources to assist with infrastructure. Some $3.9 million will come from central government to assist with other areas across the territory.
Premier Fahie said employees who have been laid off or on reduced schedules “need immediate relief.” Eligible persons can benefit from the $10 million Unemployment Relief Fund for a period of up to three months. Compensation, he noted, will be on a case by case basis and individuals would have to provide the relevant information on how they were affected by the pandemic. Application forms will be available beginning June 2. Call 284-852-7800 for more information.
With businesses facing “unprecedented challenges,” $6.5 million from the SSB has been allocated to help them stay afloat. Qualifying businesses are to make an effort to “keep their staff employed.” Application forms will be available from June 15 at the Trade Department.
Homeowners whose houses were damaged during Hurricane Irma will now benefit from $9 million fund to get their homes watertight for the upcoming hurricane season. Applications are available through the Ministry of Health Housing Recovery Unit.
Farmers and fisherfolk will benefit from a $2 million allocation once they are registered. Applications are available beginning June 5 at www.bvi.gov.vg. Hard copies can be collected from the Ministry of Education, District Offices on Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke, the Sister Island coordinator, district representative, or the four territorial at-large representatives.
A $1 million grant to provide support for day care centers, private schools, churches and other religious organizations that have been “adversely affected” and qualify can be assisted. Details are to be published at www.bvi.gov.vg by June 15.
To help taxi operators get back on their feet, $1 million is being provided to transport returning nationals to government quarantine facilities and shuttle service when the road turnaround is officially launched after a second simulation exercise on June 1.
A $1 million grant will assist persons with social needs and be monitored by the Social Development Department.
The 13-member government and opposition will receive $300,000 each in addition to their allotments for a total of $3.9 million to help their constituents with “less complicated issues,” Fahie said. “Please note, transparency and accountability still apply to these funds,. The funds will be audited monthly by the internal audit department.”
There is a three-month amnesty on payments to the BVI Electricity Corp. for May, June and July for individuals and business that qualify. This initiative is led and monitored by BVIEC on a case by case basis.
A $17 million allocation for affordable housing is separate from the $40 million SSB grant. Fahie said it’s a project that had been in the works for some time. “No one knows the length or duration of this pandemic,” he said.
“We are in the hurricane season and while we pray that we don’t experience hurricanes, the reality is that the possibility lingers which may be another call on our limited resources.”