Special Emergency Wage Fund Set Up To Provide Relief to Employees Affected By COVID-19

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, March 24, 2020 (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister) – On Tuesday, March 24, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis announced a significant and far-reaching stimulus package to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) on impacted individuals and the local economy.

These include, inter alia, the postponement of the payment of Property Tax from June to September 2020; the removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) and Import Duty for six months on hygiene items such as hand sanitizers, hand sanitizer dispensing machines, disinfecting wipes, rubbing alcohol, gloves, masks and protective gowns, and the removal of Import Duty and Customs Service Charge for six months on vegetables, fruits, fruit juices, cough and cold preparations and vitamins.

The Government’s wide-ranging stimulus package was revealed by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris during a press conference today, Tuesday, March 24.

Prime Minister Harris announced that a special emergency wage fund has been created to provide relief for displaced workers.

“Employees who contract the virus and for whom contributions were made would be eligible for Social Security benefits. The Social Security Board, in this regard, will establish a special fund of about $15 million to assist with income support up to a maximum of $1,000 per month for workers whose income would have been impacted by COVID-19,” the prime minister said.

Registered self-employed persons, who can show that they have been impacted, would also qualify for this support.

Prime Minister Harris extended his thanks, and that on behalf of the country, to the Social Security Board for responding in a very responsible way “by creating a package of support to mitigate the negative social and economic impact of the virus.”

The prime minister added, “The Social Security Board, of course, was set up largely to support the workers or their beneficiaries in their times of greatest need, and such times include times of sickness, maternity, employment, infirmity and death. During these events our workers are most vulnerable and lose incomes and they suffer significant loss in income.”

As the Government appreciates that quarantine forms part of the health best practice in response to containing and mitigating transmission of the virus, quarantined employees are expected to qualify for sickness benefits.

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