(CNS): The more than 2,600 people cleared to receive government’s tourism stipend, which is designed to see workers through the closure of their sector, can expect to see payments for the last three months of the year by the middle of next week. Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has said that the members of Finance Committee have agreed that when they meet on Monday, they will clear the $9 million needed to make the payments.
In a statement delivered in the Legislative Assembly on Friday, Kirkconnell said the extra funding his ministry needed to pay for the stipends, which was obviously not budgeted for, had to be approved in accordance with the law before it could be given out.
“Once approval has been granted… we will do everything possible to process the payments and release the stipends on Wednesday of next week,” the deputy premier said. “While we are mindful of the needs of those who are reliant on these funds as their only source of income, and we regret the delay in effecting the payments, we also have a duty to ensure that the ministry remains in compliance with the Public Management and Finance Law.”
The money will fund $1,000 per month until the end of the year for up to 2,627 individuals who were verified to receive payments this summer after losing their tourism related jobs or livelihoods as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic .
Kirkconnell said government was taking a balanced approach with respect to reviewing the needs of the tourism industry, in tandem with maintaining the economy and keeping the Cayman Islands safe.
“It is fair to say that the goal between now and the first quarter of 2021 and beyond is to protect the industry, and protect the people and businesses that service the industry, till tourism can safely resume and is in a position to stand on its own,” he said. “The tourism industry typically contributes 25 to 30% to the country’s GDP, so the impact from its sudden unexpected demise cannot be understated.”
He added that tourism businesses are being supported in other ways, as they will be part of the driving force behind the economic recovery.
“When that time comes, businesses will need skilled employees to operate effectively,” he said, as he pointed to programmes that are being developed in partnership with WORC, UCCI and the School of Hospitality Studies to upskill local workers to give them the best possible chance to join the tourism industry and flourish when it reopens.
The minister said businesses can also access the government’s loan guarantee scheme with the banks as well as programmes under the commerce ministry to assist small, medium and micro businesses.
“At the start of this year no one could have predicted how life would change on a global scale or how deeply our tourism industry and economy would become affected, virtually overnight,” he said, adding that government cared and the programmes were ongoing because the situation is changing on a daily basis.