Article by Marlon Madden
BarbadosToday January 29, 2021
Government said Thursday it will pump $3 million in stimulus for the roughly 3,000 registered shop owners and vendors whose operations are to be closed for two weeks from next Wednesday.
And millions more in financial assistance are to be made available for a range of other registered small business operators as well as unregistered entrepreneurs.
Providing the update on the new lockdown policy for businesses during a media conference, Minister of Small Business Kerrie Symmonds said the cash stimulus was triggered by business owner’s concerns and after meeting with civil servants in the finance, agriculture and maritime affairs ministries.
Declaring that Government was sensitive to the needs of micro and small businesses, Symmonds explained that ministers approved the measure at the weekly Cabinet meeting.
He also pointed out that ministers also agreed to allow minimarts to open “only in those parts of Barbados where there is no ease of access to supermarkets”, citing such rural areas as St Joseph, St John and Andrew.
The rural shops will open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. just as will supermarkets.
All other shop owners, vendors and food stall operators are required to close their operations along with restaurants.
Shops are to get $1,500 for the two-week lockdown while vendors will receive $500.
Symmonds said he was aware that there were approximately 1,444 registered shops and about 1,500 vendors who stand to benefit.
The minister insisted that the figure for the financial assistance was not “pulled from the sky” and said it was an attempt to “try to bring some alignment with the Adopt-A-Family type of assistance”.
Making clear that the lifeline was not limited to shops and vendors, he said a range of other businesses were also expected to benefit, including beauty salon owners, barbers, nail technicians, water sport operators and taxi drivers.
Symmonds said a meeting will first take place with the transport industry to ensure that the assistance was going only to licensed taxi drivers “who still operate”.
“Therefore, there is a need for us to apply a measure of caution, not only with regard to taxi operators but with regard to all other sectors who we are trying to assist as well,” said Symmonds.
He encouraged shop owners, vendors, food stall operators and the other businesses to register with the Ministry of Commerce by email to commerce. firstname.lastname@example.org. bb and share the following information: name and address of the operator, name of business, the type of business, and bank or credit union account number, in an effort to receive assistance.
He explained that a method was being worked out to see how best Government could provide financial assistance to small business operators and entrepreneurs that were not registered.
Symmond said: “We genuinely want to reach out to as many categories of small entrepreneurs as much as possible to help provide that safety net during this period.
“Therefore, an approach is being worked through where we will have the necessary meetings with that aspect of the community in order to try as best as is possible [to assist].
I say upfront, it is a very imperfect system but what we are trying to do is to try to meet people part way.
“Where there is a failure on the part of Government to be able to respond in a manner you consider to be adequate and you feel that you are hurting sufficiently that you need to reach out, then a call centre will be created and we will notify you of this early next week so that you will be invited to call in and raise your concerns so that you can be directed to the type of intervention we may be able to offer you as best as possible in the circumstances.”.
He also explained that Government will be providing assistance to farmers by allowing them to sell produce to Government for the promised “care packages” for vulnerable households during the two-week lockdown.
Government is expected to deliver some 60,000 hampers.
But Symmonds made clear that no consideration would be given to allowing restaurants to open even for curbside pick-up or takeout orders.
He nonetheless hinted that Government could also provide some financial assistance to restaurateurs for the lockdown, but suggested they would have to make a case and engage in “a little advocacy and come to us and let us see what is possible and if it is possible”.
But the small business minister declared that while “everyone would want Government to come and partner, while Government will do its best, there is a limitation on what is possible and we have to face that reality”.