Unemployment benefits due to the global coronavirus pandemic has cost local taxpayers an estimated $32 million, with a total of $9.210,000 authorized this week in benefit payments to 7,780 people.

Speaking at the latest COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, Finance Minister Curtis Dickinson said: “We expect further payments to continue on a bi-weekly schedule, which means another payment in two weeks on Friday, June 12.

But for those who have yet to receive any payments, he said: “We continue to make progress to resolve problem applications, and this week we paid 640 applicants for the first time.

“Last week I advised that over 1,400 people had notified the Department of Workforce Development of their planned return to work,” he added.

“This number continues to grow as Bermuda enters its second week of Phase Two, and over 2,600 individuals who were previously receiving benefits, have now returned to work – up by more than 1,200 from last week.

“I want to reiterate that all individuals and companies have a responsibility to notify the Government of your return to work to confirm your eligibility period.

“Please visit www.bermudajobboard.bm, follow the link at the top for COVID-19 Unemployment Application, then the link at the top for the Back to Work form.

“For those that have already done so, we thank you for the act of responsible citizenship.”

The Minister also noted that the newly appointed Economic Advisory Committee held its second meeting this week and provided their “initial feedback and comments on the impact of COVID-19 on all sectors of the economy”.

“The committee explored proposed ideas that we have received to date from some of these sectors,” said Mr Dickinson.

“In addition, the committee has now received submissions from other entities and individuals, including submissions made on the government forum website, and as agreed to include these as part of our assessments.

“The Committee will be now be reviewing other possible ‘quick win’ ideas which could benefit the community in the short term.”

Pensioners who qualify would be happy to know that starting Monday, June 1st, you “will be able to make application for their funds”, to make “a voluntary withdrawal of up to $12,000, or take 25 percent of their pension account balances”.

“With respect to the $12,000 withdrawal, applicants must be under the normal retirement age of 65 and not already retired.

“This is a one-time withdrawal, and applications are to be made to the applicant’s private pension plan administrators,” he said.

“There are no fees associated with making this application and applicants should contact their administrators via phone or by email.

“This option has been put in place as part of a COVID-19 economic relief programme to assist persons negatively affected by this pandemic. Therefore, persons will have until 30 June 2021 to make an application to request a withdrawal.

“The Pension Commission has already provided guidance to the plan administrators to assist them with reviewing, processing and approving applications in order to make the process as efficient as possible.

“Persons eligible for the 25 percent withdrawal should be 65, retired, no longer working and have not converted their pension account balance into an annuity.

“Applications are to be made to the Pension Commission. The Commission stands ready to assist retirees in answering any questions they may have and applicants can contact them at 295-8672 for further information,” he added.

“There are no fees associated with making the application, and there is no time limit for retirees to make an application under this option.”

In closing, the Minister wished everyone a happy Bermuda Day, saying: “Please stay safe.”

  • Top Feature Photo Courtesy of TNN