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The National Insurance Services (NIS) says it is considering the implementation of a COVID-19 temporary unemployment benefit for workers who have been laid-off as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Currently, we are awaiting the legislative authority to initiate this programme,” the state-owned social security company said in a press release on Monday.

The NIS said the current and anticipated debilitating impact of COVID-19 on the lives and livelihoods of our people require, among other things, targeted, timely and temporary responses by social protection systems.

“The NIS, which serves as a vital social protection pillar, will continue its mandate of protecting its people in uncertain times.”

The NIS said the temporary unemployment benefit aims to assist people and provide some cushion to vulnerable workers from the economic displacement brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The principal objectives of this temporary programme include providing temporary replacement income which will protect some working families from falling into poverty trap as a result of job losses due to the challenges which have arisen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It also hope to stimulate consumption and economic activities and assist affected persons whilst searching for new jobs.

Features and Conditions of the Temporary Unemployment Benefit

The proposed conditions and features are as follows:

Eligibility — Insured persons who are under pensionable age (62 years old) and have been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic;

Qualifying Conditions — Insured persons who have paid at least 26 weekly contributions, of which 8 weekly contributions must be within the 13 weeks immediately preceding the unemployment date;

Support of Claim – The claim must be supported by a Lay-Off Certificate from the employer and a completed Declaration of Unemployment Status Form from the employee; stating that the insured has been laid-off no earlier than March 1st, 2020 as a result of the financial difficulties arising from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic;

Commencement of Payment — The benefit shall be payable from April 17th, 2020 or on the fifteenth day of continuous period of unemployment, whichever is later;

Timing of Claim – The claim must be submitted within 20 days of date of unemployment;

Closure Date – The programme expires either July 17, 2020 or the date of the exhaustion of the fund, whichever occurrence comes earlier;

Benefit Rate — The amount paid shall be fixed at a rate of $75.00 per week.

Payment Frequency – The benefit will be paid fortnightly by way of direct deposit.

The NIS said it will “continue to protect its people in a prudent and responsible manner.

“We anticipate that investments, contributions and benefit payouts will be adversely impacted by this crisis. However, the partially funded nature of the plan, coupled with our role as a social safety net, affords us the opportunity to provide a temporary and targeted cushion to our workers who have contributed in building our asset base.

“We are here to protect our people in the most responsible, careful and prudent manner whilst safeguarding the safety, soundness and sustainability of the fund.”