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Government announces EC$36M stimulus to assist poor and vulnerable

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Gregory Bowen says the $36M stimulus package is expected to protect the most vulnerable, promote job creation and stimulate the economy.

Close to 9000 vulnerable Grenadians are expected to benefit directly from an EC$36M stimulus package which was officially launched by the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) administration on Wednesday to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

It is the second package to be implemented in approximately 16 months to curb the significant financial and economic impact of Covid-19 on the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

A major component under the stimulus is the “temporary expansion” of beneficiaries under the Ministry of Social Development’s Support for Education, Empowerment and Development (SEED) cash transfer programme to include less fortunate individuals, who had previously qualified but were not receiving SEED payment, which is geared to provide support for school transportation, necessities fund, and public assistance programmes.

In making the disclosure, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Gregory Bowen announced an EC$ 5.3M allocation to support the temporary SEED expansion “for a period of up to 12 months.”

The Number Two man in the NNP regime pointed out that internet support through the inter-connectivity programme that targets vulnerable households is a significant component under the multi-million dollar stimulus, which is geared to “protect the most vulnerable, promote job creation, and help micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.”

He identified these as being “critical to help boost economic recovery, and prevent further economic scarring and social dislocation.”

Minister Bowen said that 1500 households are expected to benefit from the inter-connectivity programme, which “will extend broadband access to vulnerable households with particular focus on students sitting examinations in 2022 as an immediate priority.”

He also announced an “EC$10.6M” allocation for persons employed in informal sector businesses, including cultural artistes, cruise ship workers, taxi drivers, water taxi operators, tourist vendors, tour guides, street, and school vendors, small shop operators, small caterers, cleaners, domestic workers and EC$6.7M towards “monthly income support to vulnerable people.

Additionally, $1.35M has been set aside to support youth entrepreneurship programmes, EC$10.6M for vulnerable populations that are not on the rosters of existing cash transfer programmes but work in the informal sector which will include the provision of EC$ 2.6 M for temporary unemployment benefit and EC$8.2M to businesses to promote growth and sustainability.

Minister Bowen also indicated that although these beneficiaries are not registered with the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) at this point they will have to do so later.

The stimulus package is open to vulnerable businesses, and individuals affected by the pandemic in Grenada and is expected to range from one-off payments to monthly transfers for up to six (6) months based on the category of eligibility.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March last year, there has been the loss of over 4000 jobs, mainly in the tourism, and hospitality sectors, and a significant spike in unemployment to 28.4%, from a reported 15.1% in the last quarter of 2019.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Wednesday’s stimulus package launch, the Strategic Programme Manager within the Internal Revenue Department (IRD), Chinnel Andrews said the Ministry of Finance is working along with all the relevant stakeholders with the “hope to target all the vulnerable persons” who were critically affected by COVID-19.

“We are working with numerous stakeholders, other ministries, for example, the Ministry of Social Development in terms of the SEED (programme). So, it’s no longer just the Ministry of Finance doing research, and disbursing monies…” Andrews told Tuesday’s weekly Post-Cabinet media brief.

The EC$36M package will be funded through the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), under the Inter-American Development Bank, Caribbean Development Bank Global Loan programme, and the Government of Grenada.

In April last year, the Grenada Parliament approved an EC$50M stimulus package in which EC$20M was reportedly used to ensure workers in the tourism sector received payroll assistance.

Three (3) months later in July 2020, the Government said it had expended over “EC$17M” under the first stimulus in which 7000 persons benefited from various measures that were implemented by the administration including payroll support, reduction in electricity bills for consumers, and grants to the Grenada Development Bank (GDB) to support the Small Business Development Fund and the Small Hoteliers Business Fund which offer concessionaire loans to help stimulate business activity.

The launch of the second stimulus package on Wednesday saw the reopening of the COVID Economic Support Secretariat, which is the central location responsible for the implementation, and coordination of all the components of the stimulus package.

This development comes approximately two (2) months after the government announced the acquisition of a US$8.95M loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to use as a stimulus with a variable interest rate of about 2.06 percent, and terms and conditions that include a 5-year grace period with repayment over 20 years.

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