The Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MOFEM), a high-level source confirmed, is reworking the current requirements for accessing the funds which have been made available to the private sector to help them through the current lockdown challenges which began late March 2020. Applications for the stimulus funds have been low and the process has been extended to May 15 to encourage more affected businesses to apply.
Business owners as well as the opposition have been calling for a review of the criteria as many of the people affected from the total shuttering of the island due to COVID-10 have not qualified or had their applications rejected.
The recently released COVID-19 Business Impact Assessment Report confirmed why. “Notably, 62% of all businesses assessed were registered with 33% of all businesses being recognized as sole traders or self-employed. This demonstrates that a significant portion of the business sector on Montserrat operates on an informal basis. The informality is suggestive that many businesses are not registered with the appropriate entities and there is a general lack of compliance with business regulations. The lack of formality was most noticeable in the agricultural, tourism and construction industries.”
The financial assistance was for a period of three months in the first instance and would provide the means for businesses to cover some of their expenses and pay up to 80% of employee salaries (capped a $3200).
Government officials met Monday to look at the requirements and have instructed the relevant departments to make adjustments so that the funds can be disbursed. The issue also relates to those seeking assistance through the Social Services Department.