Mon | Oct 26, 2020

Broaden COVID support, says JHTA official

Published:Monday | May 4, 2020 | 12:08 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Cummings
Cummings

Western Bureau:

JAMAICA HOTEL and Tourist Association (JHTA) executive Wayne Cummings said the Government should revisit and broaden its COVID-19 stimulus care package to include tourism workers with salaries above the $1.5-million income tax threshold, because they are not in any better position to survive under the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cummings outlined his position during Thursday’s virtual public forum put on by the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry and The University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Western Jamaica Campus, which looked at the topic ‘COVID-19: Surviving the Storm’.

“It’s a national crisis and at some stage, we are going to have to relook at the level of stimulus and the length of the stimulus, because the details are emerging that until we get a handle on the health situation, we are going to have to find a way to make sure that people are able to feed themselves and their families,” said Cummings.

SET Cash PROGRAMME

Tourism workers who lose their jobs between March 10 and June 30 because of the economic ravages of COVID-19 are eligible to receive $54,000 under the Government’s Supporting Employees with Transfer of Cash (SET Cash) programme over a three-month period, ending June.

“The workers from the tourism sector, in particular, will each receive $18,000 per month for the months of April, May and June,” said Cummings, noting that stakeholders in the industry are very appreciative of the fact that the Government has implemented the care programme.

“The challenge is that it is targeting a specific group of persons who are earning $1.5 million in basic pay and below. However, there are many persons, whether they earn $1.00 above the $1.5 million and upwards, [they] are in the same situation,” said Cummings.

According to Cummings, except for a few hotels in Kingston, the hotel sector is closed down, meaning that 150,000 direct employees in the hotel, attraction and transportation businesses are at home, many of them without an income.

“There are another 200,000 persons who are indirectly supported by the tourism sector -- taxi, craft vendors, red cap porters, airport workers, contract and causal workers -- [who] would come in on seasonal work, all of whom are now at home,” continued Cummings.

The JHTA executive said that while some businesses have offered parts of salaries, most businesses have not been able to do so, leaving the vast number of some 350,000 persons at home without an income.