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Senate approves extension of financial assistance

Sessions House (File photograph)

Legislation to extend financial assistance for able-bodied recipients was given the green light by the Senate.

Arianna Hodgson, the Junior Minister for Labour, Finance and Health, said the Financial Assistance Amendment and Validation Act would extend the maximum duration of financial assistance for able-bodied recipients from five years to seven.

She explained that the change would be retroactive to address those who have received assistance since their five years ended earlier this year.

Ms Hodgson said the extension was needed in the face of Covid-19, which has limited employment options for many.

While most financial assistance recipients are pensioners or disabled, there were 238 people who were considered unemployed and able-bodied, and the five year period for some recipients ended on March 31.

Robin Tucker, OBA senator, added that while many were struggling and needed assistance, but there were some who did not appear to be putting in real effort.

Ms Tucker said: “I have seen first hand people come to me who have no background, no experience, bring me their financial assistance forms having applied for corporate attorney positions and ask me to fill out their form to say they had applied for a job.

“I have hired people in hospitality where they have shown up on day one and on day two they have called back and said they have another opportunity and have left.

“I have hired people in hospitality as wait servers that say they don’t want to work shifts and don’t want to work weekends.”

She said she believed Government should give people support, but seven years is “quite a long time” for able bodied individuals who could be working and so a cut-off or reassessment point was needed.

On Monday the Senate also approved the Public Treasury (Administration and Payments) Amendment Act, which would allow the Government the ability to claw back overpayments made as part of the Covid-19 Emergency Unemployment benefits.

OBA senator Marcus Jones said it was important that the public monies be recovered, and that measures should be in place to prevent such overpayments in the future.

Tax relief for an extension of the Azura Hotel and Resorts in Warwick was also approved by senators.

The Tourism Investment (Nautilus Hotel) Order 2021 offers the developers six years of duty relief for building materials and hotel furnishings, a six-year exception for hotel occupancy tax and employer-side payroll tax once the hotel opens, and one year of exemption from land tax beginning six years after the hotel’s opening date.

As part of the order, the hotel must ensure that 70 per cent of staff are Bermudian and a management training programme for Bermudians must be in place.

Senators also voted in favour of a 38-day extension to the Covid-19 public health emergency.

While the emergency period was scheduled to end on August 23, the Public Health (Covid-19) Emergency Extension (No. 4) Order 2021 pushed that date back to September 30.

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Published August 02, 2021 at 7:49 am (Updated August 02, 2021 at 7:40 am)

Senate approves extension of financial assistance

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