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Caribbean Netherlands subsidy expected to attract 5,500 people

A roughly estimated 5,500 persons are expected to file a request for the temporary subsidy arrangement for wage cost and income loss for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba within the next three months.

Dutch Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Wouter Koolmees recently stated this in response to questions from the Permanent Committee for Social Affairs and Labour of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.

The questions by the committee were related to the procedure to approve an incidental additional budget due to the emergency package for employment and economy during the coronavirus. The committee sought some clarity on the effects of this package for the Caribbean Netherlands where the Dutch emergency measures are implemented as well.

Minister Koolmees explained that the execution of the temporary subsidy arrangement for wage cost and income loss for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will cost roughly 13 million euros in the first three months.

This 13-million-euro figure is based on the anticipation that employers will make use of the arrangement for more than 35 per cent of their employees. The percentage will be higher in the tourism and hospitality sector.

Asked about unemployment in the Caribbean Netherlands, Koolmees said that due to the lack of data on the current unemployment situation, it was hard to provide exact figures. He did state that he expected some 5,500 persons to apply for the temporary subsidy arrangement within the three months. He emphasised that this was a rough estimate.

As for the subsidy arrangement for self-employed persons and freelancers, the minister explained the specific conditions they have to meet in order to qualify for receiving 80 per cent of the legal minimum wage.

Self-employed persons must have dedicated at least 24 hours per week to their own business before the coronavirus crisis, they must be registered at the Caribbean Netherlands Chamber of Commerce and they must be a resident of the Caribbean Netherlands.

The applicant has to show that his or her income dropped below the monthly minimum wage which is: US $919 in St. Eustatius, US $907 in Saba and US $761 in Bonaire. The income will be supplemented to this level.

In another letter to the Second Chamber, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Cora van Nieuwenhuizen-Wybenga announced that the travel bans for travellers from high-risk areas to Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba would be extended to April 28. The airspace of the islands closed mid-March.

The Daily Herald.

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