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Deputy THA Chief Secretary, Joel Jack

Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Secretary for Finance and the Economy Joel Jack says he requested a meeting with Finance Minister Colm Imbert to discuss how Tobago will benefit from the Government’s latest COVID-19 measures, in addition to how the THA plans to recover post-COVID-19.

Speaking at this week’s post-Executive Council media briefing on Wednesday, Jack said the THA will provide access to an additional $8 million to small and medium enterprises and $25 million to individuals displaced by the latest restrictions.

He said steps will be taken to expedite payments and remove “bottlenecks” in the system.

“At today’s Executive Council we discussed some of these measures which include establishing a hotline at the Divisional Health and we will be shifting a number of the applications to an online basis.”

He said one of the main focal points of the process was ensuring that face-to-face contact is reduced, and the new measures will be revealed to the public next week.

When asked what systems would be put in place to address people who applied and did not receive grants during the first lockdown phase, Secretary Jack said the Social Development and Family Affairs Minister Donna Cox recently met with the Secretary of Health Wellness and Family Development Tracy Davidson Celestine to improve the distribution process.

“We will be putting in the necessary measures such as implementing the hotline and shifting some of the applications online to ensure that the database is robust.”

He said a number of people would have already been in the system, which means that they were already evaluated and this will also help to expedite the process.

The Finance Secretary said the THA food card and food grant distribution process will also be expedited. He said the focus this time around is on creating “well-oiled and efficient systems to serve those in need”.

As it relates to the upgrade grants for the hotel sector, Jack said in a number of cases the delay was caused by individuals.

“There were several reports of delays because persons in that sector could not submit the necessary documents to append to their applications.”

However, he said people in the tourism sector are due to receive the second half of their payments before the end of May.

Earlier this week, the Minister of Finance announced that $1,500 will be provided to people who lost employment during the month of May; $1,000 for loss of employment for two weeks in May and 25,000 food baskets per month for the next three months.

Small and medium enterprises loans will also be made available and adjustments will be made for easier access to small business loans. Discussions will be held regarding how measures can be relaxed for people with credit union loans.