Story by CAMILLE McEACHNIE
The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has begun to put together emergency economic packages of its own, to support Tobagonians during the current COVID-19 crisis.
Confirmation has come from Finance Secretary, Joel Jack, who explained that the THA packages will be in addition to the stimulus monetary and fiscal packages offered by the Government, to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the island.
Secretary Jack noted that many stakeholders in Tobago’s tourism sector are feeling the full brunt of the fallout from the pandemic and may be forced to close their businesses this week.
He said THA had estimated that more than 5,000 workers—in different areas of the tourism sector—will be retrenched.
However, the finance secretary gave assurances that the THA will continue to work with all businesses to prevent further fallout, noting that it had its own stimulus package.
Speaking at this week's post-Executive Council media briefing, on Wednesday, at the Ann Mitchell Gift Auditorium of the Scarborough Library, Secretary Jack indicated that the THA is asking the central government for $45 million, in the first instance, and he outlined how the money will be spent.
“In the Tobago context, we have an important role to play and therefore, during our deliberations at the Executive Council, we outlined a number of measures,” he explained. “In treating with the direct cost to cover COVID or the health-related cost, we will be seeking additional funding to cover it to the tune of $45 million. That is our first estimate.”
He added: “We will continue to work with our clients during our loan program. We will seek, as well, to expedite the payment to our suppliers and our contractors, especially most of them in small and medium-term employment enterprises."
Last week, senior government officials met with the THA in Tobago.
At the media briefing that followed, it was stated that Tobagonians will share the same benefits with their Trinidad counterparts.
Some of the benefits include grant and loan facilities already existing with the government and THA; salary relief up to $1,500 for temporarily displaced workers; temporary food cards worth $150 for families who accessed the School Feeding Program; and rental assistance.