Premier David Burt announced a new $15 million economic relief package to help working families struggling with the rising cost of living in Bermuda.
Speaking in the Lower House on Friday (July 15), Mr Burt, who is also the Minister of Finance said support will be given to people with children in public schools and supply householders with LED light bulbs to help slash those mounting electricity bills.
More money will be made available in September to help cover the cost of food for families on financial assistance. And payroll tax rebates will be offered to 75 percent of the island’s workforce.
“Our fellow Bermudians who receive financial assistance are often seniors, differently abled or those who have not yet found employment,” said the Premier.
“They have themselves and their families to feed and support.
“These are our fellow Bermudians whose circumstances mean that they need help.
“This relief package contains a 15 percent increase in the food allowance budget for the Department of Financial Assistance to provide more support to families in need of food assistance.
To explain how this relief would be funded, the Premier also tabled a Supplementary Estimate, which will fund:
- The payroll tax rebate
- The school supply support
- The purchase of LED lights for Bermudian families; and
- An increase in the food allowance budget for the Department of Financial Assistance
With the cost of food increasing, the Premier emphasised that “this package is not the end of the relief this PLP Government will deliver”.
“In concert with the Cost of Living Commission, food importers and supermarkets, this Government will reduce the price for essential goods that many families must buy weekly,” he said.
“In consultation with the Commission, the Government will reduce the duty on staple goods and ensure those savings are passed on to consumers.
“Part of this $15 Million relief package includes a provision for this duty relief that will result in reduced prices for working families,” he added.
While noting that “Bermuda is an affluent society”, he said “that affluence has created a society in which economic pressures make it increasingly difficult for many hardworking people to keep up”.
“Legitimate aspirations are frustrated by runaway costs of basic items which are necessities for life in this community,” said Premier Burt.
“The high cost of living creates circumstances which sometimes defy economic theory but create a reality which the Government has a responsibility to address.”
What’s included so far in the relief package?
• Payroll tax rebate of $250 for people earning less than $60,000 a year; and a $100 rebate for people earning between $60,000 and $96,000
• Support for school supplies at $150 for each public school pupil
• LED light bulbs for families to help cut electricity bills
• Increased food allowance budget for the Department of Financial Assistance
“Individuals earning less than $60,000 annually will receive a $250 rebate and those earning between $60,000 and $96,000 will receive a $100 rebate,” said Mr Burt.
“It is expected that by September applications will be made available where 75 percent of Bermuda’s workers will be eligible to apply for their rebate.
“Once approved, the applicant will receive a direct deposit in their bank account.
“Also as part of the relief package the Government will provide $150 to parents and guardians for each student enrolled in public school,” he added.
“This payment is to assist with school essentials as we recognise the financial burden encountered annually when preparing to send children back to school.
“As the father of two children who seem to be growing by the day, I know that last year’s shoes and uniforms may not fit in September,” said Mr Burt.
“With this payroll tax rebate and school supply support, a family of four with two school-aged children can receive up to $800.
“We are determined to put more money back into the pockets of working families.”
More details on this initiative will be released by the Minister of Education in the weeks ahead.
“The relief package also includes an extension of duty relief on the importation of vehicle fuel to ensure the ongoing freeze in fuel prices at the pump.
“This extension will help families, taxi operators, fishermen, tour operators and local businesses.
“The amount of this relief for this fiscal year is estimated to be $6.4 million.”
Also tabled in the House on Friday – the Customs Tariff Amendment Act, which grants the Minister of Finance “the ability to vary the rate of vehicle fuel duty”.
“Many will say this relief package is not enough, and as a Government we get it. But it is also critical we balance being fiscally responsible while providing relief,” said Mr Burt.
“This package is not perfect but it is a start and will make a difference in the lives of many Bermudians who want to know the Government is on their side and has their best interests at heart.”
Highlights of the Premier’s Full Statement:
By any measure Bermuda is an affluent society. But that affluence has created a society in which economic pressures make it increasingly difficult for many hardworking people to keep up. Legitimate aspirations are frustrated by runaway costs of basic items which are necessities for life in this community. The high cost of living creates circumstances which sometimes defy economic theory but create a reality which the Government has a responsibility to address.
The package of relief we provide today is the start. This is what we can do now and the start point must be to provide assistance to those who need it most. Today’s relief package is a beginning and represents a deliberate effort of this Government to put more money into the pockets of people who need it most. Today’s relief provides support in key areas identified as critical to the people of Bermuda who need that hand up and the support of their Government to thrive.
The Government has listened to the concerns of many Bermudians regarding the cost of living and our record has shown that we have been responsive to the needs of the people. In this year’s budget, we again reduced payroll tax for persons making less than $96,000, reduced vehicle licensing fees by 10 percent, and provided land tax relief for charities and registered care homes. Yet we recognise more can and must be done. This Government has always looked out for working people and families, we have always done what we can, when we can, to provide support where support is needed. Since we’ve been in office, the cumulative payroll tax savings for a worker making $48,000 a year is just under $5,000. That is $5,000 more that a parent has had in their pockets to provide for their families.
This is incredibly complex work, but it is work that I hope will engender bipartisan support in this Honourable House, as it reflects what we all promised to do on entering elected service: to serve the people.
It is important to reiterate that these relief items would not be possible without the increase in revenue received from the travel authorisation and tourism-related taxes. Bermuda’s budget, like countries around the world, has been affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, as the Minister of Tourism will share with this Honourable House later today, Bermuda is enjoying a stronger than expected tourism season and this increased revenue from the Travel Authorisation & tourism taxes has exceeded the losses from the war and is supporting this relief to working families.
I wish to also advise this Honourable House that Cabinet will shortly be invited to approve further measures which will be directed to meeting the staffing shortages in key areas like the Bermuda Police Service and the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service to ensure the safety and security of Bermuda. Additional measures will also include increased provision of mental health options for Bermudians, independent living coordinators for young people ageing out of care, support for increased local entertainment, resources to boost youth employment and expanded summer camp spots.
Next Monday will mark five years since this PLP Government was elected. During that time workers have seen their taxes cut, support for the vulnerable has been increased, seniors have seen their pensions rise, and Bermudians have received increased scholarships, training, and apprenticeships.
In May, Standard & Poors said, “Economic recovery is underway in Bermuda”.
Mr Speaker, as our economy recovers, Bermuda can be assured that this Government is committed to providing even more relief to ease the burden on working families. For five years we’ve demonstrated that commitment, and today we add to that record by delivering a first-of-its-kind relief package for working families in Bermuda.