GOVERNMENT RECEIVED REQUESTED INFORMATION AND PROPOSES IDEA TO GET STIMULUS TO TAXI OPERATOR
The Government of the Turks and Caicos has proposed to local taxi operators, whose representatives met with Premier Honourable Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, a proposal that will allow them to access some of the stimulus money that Government has allocated to the Hospitality Sector, to help cushion the fallout of the health pandemic.
Many taxi operators have been unable to access the available stimulus money because there was a high rate of delinquency in national insurance payments and also incidences of operating without business licenses. Without those being up-to-date, the taxi operators were unable to qualify for the stimulus benefits, even though Government has allocated the money.
Premier Cartwright-Robinson has said that she will seek adjustments at the policy level, if the taxi operators who have arrears on national insurance, agree to a good faith payment plan to settle those arrears over the next year.
She reminded them that she has no authority to completely waive fees owed to the National Insurance Board (NIB).
“We are very aware of the plight of many of these taxi operators; and they are no doubt hurting, like many sectors, as a result of this pandemic,” the Premier said.
“We are clear in our minds that politics is about people. And we have already demonstrated our determination to find solutions to get monies to the people as evidenced by the several policy shifts to assist in the processing of the employee grant. We must also continue to bear in mind that there are rules and systems in place to ensure fairness and to guard against abuse. Many make this about a $1200 grant but it is so much more, it is a $15 million Cash Program which the Opposition dubbed as an election gift. This Program is bound to see increased audit scrutiny and hence the need to be ever more vigilant in the administering of this Fund,” she added.
The Premier met with the Group, headed by Mr Sonny Forbes, at her office on Thursday, July 2nd and this meeting followed the initial meeting of June 9th, 2020 where she requested specific information to assist in the crafting of and possible policy responses.
“We had a very open and productive session. As eager as they were to be able to access the funding, they were very cognizant of the things they needed to do,” Honourable Cartwright-Robinson said.
Premier Robinson continued, “Both meetings of June 9th and July 2nd were productive and as stated in a press briefing last week, I invited the Taxi Operators to help me to help them. In the meeting of June 9th, Mr Sonny Forbes accompanied by Ms Onemia Walkin, Mr Martin Theodore, Mr Ron Higgs and Ms Bloneva Greene met me as a Group that was said to have been elected by Taxi Operators to bring to my attention the challenges that the Operators were facing. I sought additional information and received the requested information on June 29th . I must acknowledge that there were two correspondences sent by the Group’s secretary, one undated and one as recent as June 29th, but neither provided the information requested. Mr Forbes on June 29th provided the information and the Team met with me yesterday where I shared a draft proposal. The policy proposals will now be taken to the Cabinet for consideration. I did share publicly that I had requested certain information and once provided, I would seek to assist and I am happy to report that the information was received on Monday past. It is now up to the taxi operators themselves to do the right things to be able to access the stimulus money.”
In recent days, a few taxi operators (including a member who had attended the first meeting with the Premier) had staged protest demonstrations because of their frustrations with not being able to access stimulus money. But the remainder of the Group representing the taxi operators maintained ongoing discussions on the matter with the Government.
Premier Robinson shared that “We are happy that the dialogue continued with the Group despite losing one of its key members who acted as Secretary. We can achieve so much more together when we dialogue.”
With the onset of the pandemic, the Government allocated money to cushion the effects to certain categories of workers and small businesses that were hardest hit.
As a result of COVID-19, the Government has been spending in excess of the original budget, at a time when its own revenues have dramatically plummeted.
‘We understand the difficulty of the times, but our first mission, even if it’s against many odds, is to ensure that the engines of this economy are kept afloat,” the Premier said.
Pictured above: A meeting the Premier Honourable Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson and Group
of Taxi Operators including, Mr. Sonny Forbes, Mr Martin Theodore and Ms. Onemia Walkin on
on July 2nd 2020 at the Office of the Premier, Local Government and Community Affairs,
Hon. Hilly Ewing Building, Upper Level, Leeward Highway, Providenciales.