ST GEORGE’S, Grenada (CMC)— The Grenada government says it has disbursed less than 50 per cent of the estimated EC$50 million COVID-19 Supplementary Estimates that was approved by Parliament in April.
“Overall, government has expended more than EC$17 million on the various measures in the stimulus package, including income and 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 offers concessionary loans to help stimulate business activity,” according to a government statement released here today.
Parliament approved the fiscal package during a special sitting on April 17 after it declared a state of emergency with a 24-hour curfew as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
At the time of approving the package, it was announced in the Parliament that the support will be for a three-month period with the Keith Mitchell administration indicating that it had also established the COVID-19 Economic Support Secretariat to specifically implement and coordinate the measures included in the stimulus package.
Under the stimulus package, the Ministry of Finance, Planning, Economic and Physical Development was allocated EC$40 million for payroll support to a number of stakeholders including hoteliers, restaurants and bars, small travel agents and income support to public buses, taxi drivers, tourist vendors, market vendors and other identified hospitality-based businesses.
The funds were also used to finance a micro, small, and medium enterprises soft lending facility at GDB and subsidising the 30 per cent reduction in electricity to consumers’ rates for three months.
The other EC$10 million was allocated to the Ministry of Health, Social Security & International Business for the procurement of any items related to the fight against COVID-19 such as medication, protective clothing among other items.
The statement, in providing an update on the disbursement of the stimulus package, noted that more than 7,000 people have so far benefitted from the initiative.
“Statistics from the COVID-19 Economic Support Secretariat show that the beneficiaries include 664 bus operators and close to 500 persons involved in various aspects of tourism including taxi and tour operators and vendors. Payroll support has been provided for 137 businesses, which collectively employ more than 3,000 workers,” said the statement.
It noted that 277 market vendors, hairdressers and barbers, 250 laid-off Royalton hotel workers and 120 Aviation Services of Grenada employees have been added to the list of beneficiaries.
“The government has also received additional requests for consideration and has committed to exploring the possibility of honouring these requests,” the release said, noting that another measure provided for in the stimulus package is an unemployment benefit, paid by the National Insurance Scheme.
So far, an estimated 2,700 Grenadians have benefited from this initiative.
The statement said that with the pandemic continuing to impact the closure of borders and restrict economic activity in some sectors, Prime Minister Mitchell has indicated that his administration is considering a three-month extension of the support granted to hotel workers.
In a recent national broadcast, Mitchell said the government is “continuously evaluating the categories of persons eligible to benefit and have made some adjustments”.
Last week, the government disclosed that it had uncovered a scheme by some businesses who have engaged in defrauding practices in its claims for workers.
Main photo: Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell