Our New Reality
We have never needed each other more than we do now.
Just two weeks into the launch of the unemployment benefit program of the National Insurance Service, almost 700 people have filed claims, with the numbers growing every day.
This unemployment benefit, though very welcome, is quite small, only makes provision for 2000 people and will end mid-July. Realistically however, it could not be more, and as the NIS Executive Director reminds, it is a benefit that is not paid for, so the cost must be spread among all contributors to the NIS.
But only people who were employed right up to the beginning of March and had been contributing regularly are eligible for this benefit. What of those employed in the informal sector? How are they coping? We have every reason to believe they are not doing well.
The Government, to its credit, is trying to reach as many vulnerable members of our society as possible through its COVID-19 stimulus package, but some will fall through the cracks. These people end up at organizations like the Salvation Army, which says it is now unable to meet demand from the public for assistance with food and they themselves are asking for assistance.
Beyond those people who have already been laid off and those whose lay offs are yet to come, many others are already, or will soon be working for reduced wages, as companies, large and small, try to find ways to stay afloat during these unusual times.
Therefore, those of us who are still in a position to help should do so in whatever small way to assist those most acutely affected by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our caring and concern for our each other must also be demonstrated in our behavior; by adhering to the guidelines about physical distancing and hand, sneeze and cough hygiene.
Additionally, even though it is said that wearing a homemade cloth mask offers more protection to the public than the wearer, that is the very reason why we should all wear masks in public. I protect you and you protect me – we protect each other.
Our caring and inter-dependency should extend to others in the Caribbean and Latin America by sharing medical, scientific and technological expertise, as well as our food and manufactured goods, to make ourselves more secure in the provision of food and other essentials, including medical equipment and supplies.
Caring for each other and protecting each other should be key parts of the new reality with which we must now live.