Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

COVID relief grants will be available for June and construction workers will be added to those being able to access those funds, Finance Minister Colm Imbert has said.

Previously the COVID relief grants were only extended for May.

Imbert made the statement during a virtual press conference held yesterday to update on financial matters and COVID-19 relief programmes.

Imbert said the expansion of the grants for June was being arranged at this time.

“I need to get a proper estimate of the number of persons in construction because that is a very amorphous area because people work in construction and they work in the areas as well and therefore it is very difficult to get a handle on exactly how many people work in the construction sector,” Imbert said.

According to the figures from the Central Statistical Office, there are currently 10,000 people working in the construction sector.

“But I have heard the Contractors Association, the JCC (Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry) talking about 60,000 people working in the construction sector, so as I said it is an amorphous area one has to be very careful about how one categorises a construction worker but we will try our best to work it out,” Imbert said.

Imbert said discussions are ongoing with the Bar Owners Association of T&T (BOATT) to organise assistance for them.

“We found it very difficult to assist them because of the informality of that sector but we are committed to help them and I am in dialogue with the association and we will do the best that we can for them,” Imbert said.

“I don’t want to quantify at this point in time but what I can tell you for persons who applied for our Salary Relief Grant 50 per cent of them came from an area called Food, Restuarant and Services and I am sure that will include some bars,” he said.

Imbert said they only received about 1,000 applications from bars out of 30,000.

While 15,000 applied from the Food, Restaurant sector.

And 13,500 applied from the Retail sector.

“I think that has a lot to do with the informality in that sector because the Salary Relief Grant is for persons who are listed within the NIS system and have a NIS number,” he said.

‘So there is a problem with bars with the informality and people not being registered for tax, not being registered for NIS and we have to keep working with them to see how we can help them because we cannot give away money without any sort of registration process, we must understand what we are doing,” he said.