Parliament has given the green light for Government to take more than $11 million from the Consolidated Fund to continue assisting Barbadian ex-employees of beleaguered regional airline LIAT as well as families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A sum of $1.74 million will go towards ensuring that the airline workers, who were sent home last year without severance, can continue to receive financial assistance, while $10 million will cover the shortfall under Government’s Adopt-Our-Families Programme so that those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can continue to get assistance.
The monies are part of a $34.8 million supplementary to the 2021-2022 Estimates of Expenditure approved by the House of Assembly on Tuesday morning, when a resolution introduced by Minister in the Ministry of Finance Ryan Straughn was passed.
More than 100 severed LIAT employees received initial payments in May, after a promise from Prime Minister Mia Mottley to give them $2 000 monthly for a 12-month period, pending the resolution of the matter of severance owed by the Antigua-based carrier.
However, Straughn said additional monies were required for the former workers to continue receiving the monthly amounts.
“This money is for the remainder of the financial year,” he explained.
“We felt it was important that some relief was given to these workers in this way, which would help to ease some of the anxiety and burden as it relates to what effectively has been the cessation of the business model of LIAT.”
The airline, which was hit hard when the COVID-19 pandemic halted air travel, is under court-sanctioned administration as it seeks to avoid liquidation by undergoing restructuring.
As for other Barbadians who were impacted by COVID-19 and have received assistance under Government’s Adopt-our-Families Programme, Straughn said an additional $10 million was needed to supplement the $10 million approved at the start of the financial year.
“This is to ensure that the programme can continue and that the persons who . . . benefit from this particular initiative can continue to do so. Barbadians still continue to donate to that programme and I urge them to continue to do so if they can,” he said.
Straughn added that the support was particularly important given the lockdown earlier this year, the fallout from the ashfall from the La Soufriere volcano in April, and the damage from Hurricane Elsa which impacted Barbados last Friday.
“It is critical that these families that were already in some level of financial stress, that we at least continue to be able to support them in this particular way until such time as the economy can recover and persons can return to work in full and be able to support themselves and their families once again,” the minister said.
The Adopt-our-Families Programme was started in April 2020, a month after the start of a lockdown that was triggered by Barbados reporting its first COVID-19 cases.
In April this year, Government reported that almost 5,000 households were benefiting from the programme. — Barbados TODAY