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Minister of Finance Colm Imbert makes a statement in response to a question posed by the Opposition during yesterday’s sitting of Parliament.

As of Thursday, 20,173 people had received COVID-19 Salary Relief Grants from Government – and another 20,000 will receive grants by month-end.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced this in Parliament yesterday, dismissing UNC MP David Lee’s claim that only 18,899 people received grants. Imbert said that figure was two days ago.

Imbert said the ministry’s Salary Relief Grant unit is processing and paying grants at a rate of 1,000 applications daily.

The cost of the grants paid to the 20,173 people is $28 million, he said.

Imbert said 51,000 applications were received in total – but approximately 20 per cent weren’t valid for various reasons. He said these included people who may have been out of jobs long before March 19 when Public Health regulations began – and places closed. Other applications involved people who weren’t in the NIS system or who weren’t T&T citizens.

“About 40,000 applications were valid and we paid half of this and by month-end, all 40,000 applications will be paid,” Imbert said, adding the grant being paid was for people in the NIS system only.

On whether Government will continue paying grants after June – if business continues slumping and job loss continues – Imbert said the projections for the cost of the grant was for April, May and June during the period of the first Public Health regulations.

“As to how long people will be out of jobs … this situation is dynamic and evolving – we’ll keep it under constant review and will make appropriate decisions based on what’s happening,” Imbert said.

Imbert noted construction, manufacturing and retail businesses have restarted and personal services resume next week.