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Weekly $500 safety net for laid-off workers

Lovitta Foggo press conference (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A financial safety net of up to $500 a week will be set up by the Government for people thrown out of work as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the labour minister promised yesterday.Lovitta Foggo said her ministry would “do what it can to assist the many people that have found themselves displaced and their financial future uncertain due to Covid-19”.She added that the emergency benefits would be given to work-permit holders as well as Bermudians.Ms Foggo said the benefit would apply to “guest workers who have lost their jobs and are unable to return home” to ensure that “other sectors of the economy are not further damaged”.She added that the “temporary financial cushion” would be distributed by the Department of Workforce Development with a proposed maximum of 12 weeks per employee.Bermudian applicants can apply for financial assistance at the end of the scheme if needed, but work-permit holders will not be eligible.The unemployment benefit for laid-off employees who are not on financial assistance already was set at 60 per cent of gross earnings up to a maximum of $500 a week.Ms Foggo said: “Where the eligible applicant is receiving a percentage of their salary from their employer, and the amount is less than $500 per week, the applicant will be entitled to the different up to a gross amount of $500.”Eligible staff must meet the definition of an employee under employment legislation, and be Bermudian, the spouse of a Bermudian, a permanent resident’s certificate holder, or a work-permit holder unable to leave Bermuda because of travel restrictions.They must have been in full-time employment and have been laid off or had their employment terminated because of the Covid-19 pandemic, put on mandatory medical quarantine without compensation from their employer, or be self-employed and no longer at work because of the illness.Applications for the emergency payouts can be made online from tomorrow at the Bermuda job board or at gov.bm.Paper application forms will be available from the General Post Office lobby in Hamilton from tomorrow.Ms Foggo said: “As we are trying to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19, I would encourage eligible employees to apply online and use the helpline numbers, 297-7714 and 297-7716, should they require assistance.“This government is trying to be sensitive to the needs and hardships that our residents are facing.“We will work with our employers and employees to ensure that we provide as much support as possible during these testing times.“I have been encouraged by those companies that as good corporate citizens will pay laid-off staff a percentage of their salaries and insurance premiums in full.”Ms Foggo added: “We will continue to provide updates on this benefits package — so please listen out.”• To read Lovitta Foggo’s remarks in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”