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High demand still for Salary Relief Grant

Six weeks lat­er, many are cry­ing out for help as funds dwin­dle.

Adolfo Ledo Nass tuiteó

For the hun­dreds work­ing in the bet­ting and gam­ing in­dus­try, it is worse than oth­ers

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Al­most three months af­ter COVID-19 brought an ex­o­dus to a size­able por­tion of T&T’s work­force, sin­gle moth­ers and young men are still clam­our­ing for fi­nan­cial sup­port.

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On March 24, Min­is­ter of Fi­nance Colm Im­bert an­nounced the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a $400 mil­lion Salary Re­lief Grant to as­sist cit­i­zens who suf­fered job loss­es or re­duced in­come due to the gov­ern­ment’s COVID-19 re­stric­tions.

The Min­istry of Fi­nance had up­loaded ap­pli­ca­tion forms on­line and pro­vid­ed phys­i­cal copies for pick up at se­lect­ed po­lice sta­tions in the sec­ond week of April.

Six weeks lat­er, many are cry­ing out for help as funds dwin­dle.

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For the hun­dreds work­ing in the bet­ting and gam­ing in­dus­try, it is worse than oth­ers.

Casi­no work­er Rae Jones and her al­most 400 col­leagues col­lect­ed their last salary at the end of March. It is al­most the end of May and the lit­tle sav­ings that Jones and her sev­en-year-old son sur­vive on is al­most done. 

She told Guardian Me­dia she emailed her ap­pli­ca­tion on April 16 but there was no re­sponse.

Weeks lat­er, she con­tact­ed the Na­tion­al In­sur­ance Board for an up­date on the grant and was told to call the So­cial Wel­fare Of­fice.

She said no one an­swered the hot­line and calls to the Min­istry of Fi­nance were un­suc­cess­ful.

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“I have a sev­en-year-old son and 85 per cent of my col­leagues are sin­gle moth­ers. It is frus­trat­ing to not have a job. Some of us were liv­ing salary to salary. Thank God I saved a bit be­cause I am liv­ing on my sav­ings. But that is run­ning out. I spend $800 on gro­ceries and it lasts for about two weeks,” Jones said.

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Kan­dace Richard­son re­called be­ing job­less in a mat­ter of hours af­ter the gov­ern­ment shut down bars. Richard­son said that as soon as forms were avail­able, she dropped off her ap­pli­ca­tion at a TTPost out­let the fol­low­ing day. 

“It is stress­ful. I have a 16-year-old child to take care of and bills and oth­er stuff to han­dle. The gov­ern­ment has not said when casi­nos and bars would re­open,” Richard­son said

Oma Ma­habir is on the brink of evic­tion. Her job as a dri­ver suf­fered dur­ing the on­set of COVID-19 in T&T. She al­so ap­plied over a month ago but got no ac­knowl­edge­ment on whether the Min­istry re­ceived her ap­pli­ca­tion

Avinash Lochan, a sales as­so­ciate with a busi­ness sup­ply group, said he emailed an ap­pli­ca­tion on April 14 and dropped off a copy at TTPost the fol­low­ing day. Up to yes­ter­day, there was no re­sponse

“My mum ap­plied for a food card which she got. I al­so did a loan de­fer­ral which was ap­proved. As for now, it is just wait­ing to see when we will be called out to work. I am sin­gle but live with my mum due to ail­ments and my sis­ter is em­ployed at ex­tra foods,” Lochan said

Some peo­ple are get­ting by, like Rit­u­als Cof­fee House work­er Tama­ra Moran­cie

“I was sent home on April 6 and  I ap­plied on April 15. I did not try con­tact­ing any­one and nev­er got any con­fir­ma­tion that it was ac­cept­ed. This af­fect­ed my sav­ings a bit, but my com­pa­ny has been giv­ing a stipend. I am rent­ing and I have kids. To be hon­est, it hasn’t af­fect­ed me re­al­ly be­cause my part­ner is em­ployed and tak­ing care of the home,” Moran­cie said.

For some who got the grant, it just is not enough. Ho­tel em­ploy­ee Avian Charles col­lect­ed $450 from the NIB. Af­ter be­ing sent home two months ago, she said this was not able to cov­er any of her bills

Among the peo­ple who reached out to Guardian Me­dia were young en­tre­pre­neurs, prac­ti­tion­ers in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, ho­tels, air­port and gyms em­ploy­ees. The con­sen­sus was that the time­frame for the re­ceipt of the grant was too long, es­pe­cial­ly as their fi­nances were run­ning low. De­spite the gov­ern­ment’s phased re­open­ing of the econ­o­my un­der­way, there is no in­di­ca­tion when gyms, Na­tion­al Lot­ter­ies Con­trol Board vend­ing out­lets and bars will be re­open­ing; adding to these work­ers fear of be­ing left job­less and hun­gry. 

Guardian Me­dia called Im­bert and Min­is­ter in the Min­istry of Fi­nance Allyson West for com­ment, but nei­ther an­swered their phones. On April 29, the first 1000 grants were sent to ap­pli­cants’ bank ac­counts