The Democratic Labour Party (DLP ) wants answers regarding the level of funding disbursed from the Government’s $20 million Small Business Wage Fund, which was established as a means to facilitate micro and small enterprises to help them cope with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following a tour of approximately nine small businesses in St Michael West, today, DLP spokesperson on business and entrepreneurship, Ryan Walters told members of the media that from interacting with the owners of the enterprises, they seem not to be aware that they can access the grant funding.
In April, Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that the Fund will contribute $500 per month per employee up to five employees, where the employer is registered both at the Small Business Association (SBA), the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA), and the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
Walters said in his opinion, the same way officials get on the ground to feel the pulse of the people, individuals should have been placed in the field to educate small businesses about the special Fund and the requirements they would need to benefit from it.
“I get the impression that the whole wait and see is to really benefit the Government and not to benefit the scheme. If the scheme is to reach the persons that need the assistance, they should try more to get on the ground, especially now at the time where restrictions have been relaxed, where there is less protocols, and people can move a little more freely.
“Apart from that, businesses have resumed, but the reality is that businesses now have to fight their way through a rebuilding process. So we need to understand what has been disbursed and what is remaining if any. Right now most businesses are still down 35 to 50 percent of what they were pre-COVID and so they are trying their best to cope, day on day, week on week, to survive. So they definitely need assistance depending on the economy over the next few weeks,” Walters said.
Walters also added that several of the entrepreneurs indicated to him that they were not making any contributions to the NIS since they were informed that they would not be entitled to any small business support, or unemployment benefit.
“I think this is an opportunity for the Government to create the legislation framework for persons to benefit from the NIS, given specific controls and restrictions that would be in place to make sure that it is not taken for granted.
“But definitely we need to make sure that entrepreneurs understand that there is assistance out there and that they buy-in to the whole concept of paying NIS, registering at inland revenue and being part of a system that will support them in times of need,” he said. (AH)