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Govt’s COVID stimulus monies were misguided, says Opposition Leader

Govt’s COVID stimulus monies were misguided, says Opposition Leader

Opposition leader Marlon Penn has argued that the monies distributed through the government’s COVID-19 stimulus grant programme were critically misguided.

He also insisted that there was an absolute need for a second stimulus package from the government.

Speaking on the Umoja radio show recently, Penn said: “The first one that we did didn’t even hit the mark because the reality is a lot of the businesses that needed that support did not get the support.”

Giving an example, Penn said there were businesses with 20-odd employees that have been shut down for more than 13 months and were given roughly $4,000 through the programme.

On the reverse side, he said fishermen who never fished a day in their lives were reportedly given $20,000.

“It doesn’t equate. So the money was misguided, I believe, based on the data that I’ve seen [and] based on the information that has come to me in terms of the kind of support the businesses got,” Penn said.

More targeted support was needed


Penn said conditions should’ve been attached to the grants that were distributed and called for more direct support for businesses, particularly for those in the tourism sector that he said were the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve been advocating for a second support for those businesses and I think we need to have deliberate and targeted support for those businesses which are now struggling just to get inventory to just operate,“ the Opposition Leader stated.

In suggesting what he would’ve done differently to make the stimulus more impactful, Penn said the Opposition had recommended a work-for-pay programme for persons that would’ve been out of work at that time.

This would have seen the burden shifted from employers to the government and employees working to prepare the BVI’s tourism infrastructure and schools for reopening after the COVID-19 lockdown.

Penn also said more direct support could have been offered to businesses that were unable to generate revenue but still had obligations to make to NHI and Social Security.

“You can’t take monies that you got from grants and give it to persons — and somebody made this point to me the other day — and give it to persons who even don’t pay Social Security, some of them,“ Penn stated.

He said term loans of up to $50,000 – $100,000 with negligible interest rates and strict conditions were also among some of the recommendations that were proposed by his Opposition. He said these proposals were favoured by several businesses.

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