Bermuda: Covid-19 unemployment payouts hit $7.7.m

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Bermuda: Covid-19 unemployment payouts hit $7.7.m
Encouraging numbers: labour minister Lovitta Foggo at yesterday’s press conference (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Encouraging numbers: labour minister Lovitta Foggo at yesterday’s press conference (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

(ROYAL GAZETTE) – A total of $7.7 million has been paid out to people thrown out of work by the Covid-19 crisis, the labour minister revealed last night.

Lovitta Foggo said that the Department of Workforce Development had been “flooded” with applications for the emergency unemployment benefit scheme since March 25.

She told applicants: “We recognise that these are very anxious times for you and we are working around the clock to make sure that you are provided the financial relief.”

She was speaking as David Burt, the Premier, announced that 209 tests for the coronavirus virus were carried out on Sunday — a record number.

Ms Foggo said that the department had received 9,108 applications for unemployment benefits and that more than 5,000 had been paid.

Ms Foggo said that 3,718 people were paid two weeks worth of benefits on April 2 and that the same group was paid again last Friday.

She added: “They will continue to receive their benefit as long as they remain eligible for the 12 weeks of benefit.”

Ms Foggo said that another 1,290 people had been given their first benefit payment last Friday.

She added that many payments had been delayed because of wrong bank details, mistakes on salary levels and other errors.

Ms Foggo said that 4,100 people had not received payments because of “minor clerical errors” or a lack of needed information.

She said the ministry was “aggressively reaching out” to fix the problems.

Ms Foggo said about 300 applicants had no bank account so could not receive electronic payments and the Government was working to hand out cheques instead.

She added the numbers to call for unemployment benefits were 707-5438, 707-5439, 707-5440, 707-5442, 707-5443, and 707-5445.

Assistance is also available by e-mail to unemployment [email protected]

The total number of Covid-19 cases remained at 86 yesterday.

Mr Burt said that some test results were expected to be processed later in the day, but that the Government would hold off on announcement of the results so that the people involved could be told first.

He added that some new results were likely to be announced last night after the people tested had been contacted. Kim Wilson, the health minister, added that the island’s 42 latest test results had all been clear.

There are 11 people being treated for Covid-19 in hospital.

The death toll remains at five and 37 people have recovered from the illness.

Ms Wilson said details of the Government’s coronavirus modelling process should be released in the next couple of days.

She added that the modelling method was British and needed consultation with Public Health England when variables changed.

Ms Wilson also dismissed reports that the Matilda Smith Williams seniors home in Devonshire was short of staff after tests showed 23 positive cases associated with the care centre.

The Government supervises 21 rest homes.

The minister said an interim administrator, Charmaine Ross Barnett, had been appointed at the home “from the moment the outbreak took place”. A registered nurse has also attended the home since early last week.

Ms Wilson added that a medical director had been appointed to the home last Saturday to give “on-site and off-site medical guidance”.

She said a “full supply” of personal protective equipment had also been provided.

Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, asked the public to be patient in vehicle checkpoint queues after more businesses were allowed to reopen from yesterday.

He said the ministry had been processing online applications from eligible businesses.

Mr Caines added there had so far been 82 applications, 50 of which were approved and 32 were still being considered.

However, he said an application did not mean automatic permission to open. Mr Caines added: “I appreciate this has been a very anxious time for businesses. The restrictions are strict, but they are there to save lives.”

Mr Burt emphasised that the Government wanted to “get the economy open as soon as possible”.

He said: “The only way we are going to do that is people must observe these next two weeks of shelter-in-place.

Mr Burt added: “We have to sacrifice so that we can get this done quickly.”

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