Arguing that many families were still hurting from the fallout of COVID-19 despite being offered stimulus packages, Leader of the Opposition Hon. Edwin Astwood is calling for another stimulus.
In a news release, Astwood said that many persons were unemployed and needed a hand-up, contending that a second stimulus could help in some way.
“A second Stimulus or Relief Package is greatly needed for citizens in the Turks & Caicos Islands,” he said. “It has been 17 months since the COVID-19 Pandemic and many individuals in this country continue to be disadvantaged and suffer financial setbacks caused by the effects of the Pandemic.”
He said even though tourism and the economy has restarted in a wonderful way, in Providenciales, not everyone was directly benefitting, noting that some families continue to be buckling under the weight of the Pandemic.
“In addition, other family islands, outside of Providenciales, continue to feel the full brunt of the Pandemic. Many persons remain unemployed, and many local businesses continue to be inactive, or have closed indefinitely. They are all now wondering if they will get another stimulus check, and if so, when will it be paid out,” he noted.
He said one of the islands most affected was the capital Grand Turk, noting that the chronic absence of cruise ship activities has been causing a strain on the economy there. He said the dearth of employment in Grand has triggered an exodus of urban migration.
“This lack of employment and business inactivity is greatly seen in Grand Turk, where the prolonged absence of cruise ship visits is driving half of the population under and closer to living in poverty. Persons are leaving their homes in order to seek employment in Providenciales,” he said.
He added: “Salt Cay and South Caicos are nowhere close to their normal pre-pandemic economic and tourism activity. There are also seeing persons leaving these Islands for other Islands.
“North and Middle Caicos may be seeing some tourism spill over from Provo, but it is still not at Pre-COVID numbers. Therefore, there is still a great need for the Government to provide stimulus support to those struggling persons and businesses throughout the Turks & Caicos Islands and since the stimulus check issuing process has been simplified, this can be expedited immediately, after gaining approval in Cabinet.
“Thereafter, the Treasury could start sending out checks in a matter of days. The amount should be at the same $1,000 level.”
He said government could support the stimulus from what he described as the millions of dollars allocated for land acquisition in the 2021/2022 Budget.
“The people’s immediate needs should be prioritized over land acquisitions. Even though there is $10 Million budgeted for works, which is a good thing, not all needful citizens will be able to benefit, or would be in the position to have a business license, bid, and win a government works project.
“Hence, some individuals will continue to be disadvantaged, and with schools opening at the end of this month, will not be able to afford the needed materials and supplies for their children,” he further argued.
He said consideration should be given to providing local businesses with grants and duty concessions for restarting.
“The grants may vary in amount with consideration given to the size and nature of the local business. Therefore, I want to put it to the Government to seriously consider giving an additional stimulus to those needful citizens and business in our country,” he noted.