Information Officer I (Ag.)
Department of Information and Public Relations
Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration Honourable Vincent Wheatley has said that the Social Security Board is working to address the more than 7000 claims that have been submitted by residents who are unemployed or underemployed due to COVID-19.
Honourable Wheatley in a statement titled “Update on Social Security Unemployment/Underemployment Benefit Payments” during the Thirteenth Sitting of the Second Session of the Fourth House of Assembly stated that a total of 7,650 claims have been submitted to the Board. Of this number, 1,738 claims have been paid so far. The amount of money that has been paid to date is $2,421,238.32.
“We are pleased to report that the methods have been working well and claims are being adjusted and paid,” Minister Wheatley said.
The Minister said benefit clerks have been reassigned to assist with the processing of the unemployment and underemployment claims.
Honourable Wheatley explained that prior to COVID-19, regular claims were processed in approximately one week. However, following the curfew and the implementation of a new claim system, wait times for regular claims can be as much as approximately one month.
He further explained that the process includes reviewing, researching the information to verify and validate claims, and in some cases, calculating the level of unemployment as persons get paid varying amounts from one month to the next.
Despite the added work, Minister Wheatley said that positive changes are being made to the unemployment/underemployment claim system including persons being contacted whose contributions are not up-to-date and employers being required to pay these contributions.
He said the team is working diligently to address the claims and noted that a claim cannot be denied due to non-payment of contribution. He also said that he empathises with persons who are concerned about receiving benefits.
“The BVI Social Security Board is committed to serving the people of the Territory,” the Minister said, adding, “The Board continues to streamline the processing of benefits to ensure its timely payments as we work to assist persons during this difficult time.”
The payment of unemployment/underemployment claims is one of the initiatives under Phase Two of the Economic Response Plan of the Government of the Virgin Islands. The Government of the Virgin Islands reached out to the BVI Social Security Board, which agreed to provide the people of the BVI with a special COVID-19 grant in the sum of $40 million towards providing social and economic relief, and stimulating economic activity in the Territory.
Government through the Social Security Board has set up a $10M COVID-19 Unemployment Relief Fund for persons whose livelihood were affected by this pandemic. The unemployment/underemployment claims are handled solely by the BVI Social Security Board.
Link to full statement: https://bvi.gov.vg/media-centre/statement-honourable-vincent-o-wheatley-update-social-security