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People wait in line outside the National Insurance Board (NIB) in San Fernando yesterday, to apply for salary relief grants.

Government has so far received just over 38,000 applications for salary relief grants and payments are expected to start flowing in the next couple weeks, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said yesterday.

At yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Imbert said ministry’s information from yesterday morning listed 4,161 hand-delivered applications at TTPost drop boxes and 34,000 online applications.

He said the applications— though not all—are now being evaluated and estimated that within two weeks the first set of grants can be started.

Imbert said he’s also proposing that the Finance and Social Development Ministries harmonise units to handle the income support grants. Finance is handling applications falling under the National Insurance Board (NIB) system while Social Development is handling those not under the NIB’s net. The proposal has to be approved by Cabinet.

Government has set aside $400 million for the programme, which caters to those people who lost jobs due to health and safety measures taken by Government in the COVID-19 crisis. The funding caters for April, May and June.

Imbert said he didn’t know what would happen after June.

“We catered for three months, …what happens in June … I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t know what will happen in June,” he said.

On borrowings, he said Government already has approval for US$200 million from the Andean (CAF) bank for air/sea infrastructure and transport. That bank also approved US$50 million for COVID emergency loans. There’s also Cabinet approval to get US$100m from the same bank and a US$350m CAF loan is also available as soon as requested.

Imbert said Government is also borrowing locally since borrowing in TT dollars is better for credit rating examinations than borrowing in US dollars.

“We’re managing local borrowings quite well,” he said.

Imbert also said about 40 Trinidad entities and 20 from Tobago have submitted tenders for manufacturing cloth face masks. The Bureau of Standards and UTT will examine samples submitted, he added.