By: Mercia Bassue
The St. Christopher and Nevis Social Security Board (SSB) established in 1978 can be considered one of the most beneficial social programs implemented by the government. Today the SSB stands strong, providing several benefits to insured persons including; Age, Sickness, Invalidity, Maternity, Assistance Pension and Death benefits. As crisis hit the Federation in March of this year, the SSB came to the rescue and rose to the challenge of cushioning the impact of the financial decline on individuals whilst stabilizing the economy. Many employers and employees were faced with a dilemma regarding their financial survival. The SSB rolled out its largest investment in the human resource in April to curtail the hardship that came knocking with covid-19. The government and the SSB held discussions to determine the ways in which the Social Security Fund could assist. The SSB led by Director and Chief Executive Officer Mr. Antonio Maynard made a decision to invest 15 million dollars from the fund. A mandate by the Board to pay up to $1000.00 per month for three months in the first instance to each employee, including the self-employed persons, who have been laid off or became unemployed as a result of the impact of COVID-19. An additional 7 million dollars was imputed making the total paid out 22 million dollars. According to the Director of the Board “It must be noted that this is not a benefits payment but rather a gratuitous payment”. He further stated that the St. Christopher and Nevis Social Security Fund is the strongest within the OECS according to the Actuary Report, with over 1.6 billion dollars in reserve. It was on this premise that the government accepted the proposal. The payments made by Social Security form part of the comprehensive Covid-19 Economic Stimulus Package presented by the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Timothy Harris. Payments began on the 20th of April as promised with continuous and daily uploads to the various bank accounts and dispatching of cheques. Payments were as follows: April 7827 persons amounting to $7,573,931.00; May 6575 persons amounting to $6,377,727.00 million dollars and June, 7442 persons amounting to $7,674,596.00. Over 8000 employees and 1000 self-employed insured persons benefited. In the past the St. Christopher and Nevis Social Security Board was viewed by some in a negative light. Many thought that is was a slush machine governments used for their own purposes rather than for its original intended purpose. The integrity of the Fund is being reestablished as over 200 new self-employed persons have registered since the pandemic. The citizens must now rally around this important social program and contribute towards its longevity and sustainability. Persons must be consistent and compliant in registering and paying contributions. Thanks must be extended to the government and the management and staff of the SSB who played an instrumental role in accessing and processing the Covid-19 payments. Without these payments many persons would have been helpless.