(CMR) After a number of displaced tourism workers received an email on Wednesday that they were being removed from the Displaced Tourism Employees Stipend tourism stipend program, which resulted in outrage from tourism workers, the Government has resorted to gradually removing persons from the program over a two month period.
Individuals who are employed will now automatically transition to the newly created Tourism Recovery Grant program, which will provide them with two months of financial support at a reduced rate of CI$1,000 for February and CI$750 for March.
Over 600 former recipients of the have returned to gainful employment in the Cayman Islands, according to the Ministry of Border Control and Labour following a thorough review of the stipend program.
In March, all recovery grant participants will be asked to answer a questionnaire on their current status to find out if they can transition out of the grant program or if further support is needed.
Tourism stipend recipients who did not complete the original survey sent out in early February have been advised that they will not be processed for payment this week and have been encouraged to complete the survey at their earliest opportunity to ensure that they have provided their most accurate and up-to-date information to the Ministry of Border Control & Labour.
The 2,400 tourism stipend recipients and 625 recovery grant participants whose payments are being processed this week will receive their payments on Friday, 18 February, as usual, via direct bank deposits or cheque payments as previously arranged.
Requests for a change from direct bank deposit to cheque cannot be accommodated at this time. No new applications for the displaced tourism worker stipend are currently being accepted.
Responsibility for administering the tourism stipend moved from the Ministry of Tourism & Transport to the Ministry of Border Control & Labour on 1 January 2022. Since then, recipients have been asked to respond to a survey to determine their employment status and other vital information to serve existing needs better.
Wesley Howell, Chief Officer in the Ministry of Border Control & Labour, said,
“At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Displaced Tourism Employees Stipend was an emergency measure put in place to assist all of those Caymanian workers who had suddenly lost their incomes. Since the reopening of tourism in November of last year, the economy and local situation have steadily improved, and we are pleased to say that around 625 previously unemployed stipend recipients are now back to work full-time.”
Chief Officer Howell continued, “As the Ministry responsible for Caymanian employment, having responsibility for this stipend changes the focus to a more active pursuit of full-time employment for these job seekers. With the new Tourism Recovery Grant program, we are stepping away from simply administering stipend payments without continued vetting and assessment and moving to providing proactive support in both finding jobs and providing training and certification opportunities to those who have resumed employment.”
Deputy Premier and Minister for Border Control & Labour Hon. Chris Saunders said, “The Government has been working diligently to get our people back to work. We understand that there is no greater satisfaction than being in control of your destiny through working at a job or occupation you love and being a contributing and productive member of society. This is our hope for all Caymanians. And we have taken action to make this hope a reality.”
“There have been several training opportunities offered to stipend recipients specifically in the tourism field through the Ministry and Department of Tourism in conjunction with the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) beginning in 2021. We have also jointly organized a Tourism Job Fair that was well attended. These efforts continue, combined with new endeavors,” he added.
Deputy Premier Saunders also noted the ongoing work being done by the Ministry of Border Control & Labour in conjunction with Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman (WORC) to encourage both current tourism stipend recipients who remain unemployed and all Caymanian job seekers to register via the JobsCayman employment portal.
He said, “The leadership teams at the Ministry and WORC have made a concerted effort to encourage tourism stipend recipients to both register with WORC for employment assistance and to register via the JobsCayman portal to assist in their search for full-time employment. At the moment, there are over 800 jobs available on the JobsCayman portal – with many of them in the tourism industry. We have tourism industry partners who are eager to employ Caymanians as the hospitality industry continues to recover from the dire effects of the pandemic.”
Acting Director of WORC Laura Watler said, “We continue to encourage all Caymanian job seekers to register with us to ensure that they have the first opportunity at the available jobs being posted. We understand the limitations with accessibility to the job listings, and we are working on solutions to remove these. This week, we will begin advertising all local job listings in the printed weekly newspapers so job seekers can see the available jobs and then follow the registration process to apply online. This is being done in tandem with our efforts to make job listings on the JobsCayman portal visible without registration and looking to make the application process through registration more streamlined.”
Chief Officer Howell noted, “We fully understand that being back to work and fully employed does not mean that people are back to their former level of income. It is understood that people will still need some support. To underscore that these people are no longer considered to be displaced workers but are instead part of the industry's post-pandemic recovery, this support is going to be provided via the Tourism Recovery Grant program, which will not be solely a financial assistance program but will also offer training and other employment and business support.”
Deputy Premier Saunders also referenced new programs being put in place to provide remaining stipend recipients and recovery grant participants with training in new fields that would offer technical and vocational certification and government-subsidized on-the-job training with participating local businesses.
The Deputy Premier said, “We will also be paying people to receive on-the-job training while feeling the pride of doing a day's work. More details on these efforts will be published in the coming weeks once we finalize agreements with training providers and local businesses.”
For further information on the tourism stipend program and the tourism recovery grant program, please email [email protected] with any questions.