Confirmation in the Friday/Saturday paper that payroll support stops in September brought home the seriousness of the coronavirus-related crisis St. Maarten still faces. Hundreds of businesses with major losses in revenue have to a large extent depended on this assistance to continue operating and save jobs during the last year and a half.
Without it, many may not be able to survive long enough for the tourism economy to sufficiently rebound. At the same time, unemployment and income support as well as the food aid programme are ending too.
Some employers already ran into financial trouble because of the backlog in disbursements of the wage subsidies, with those of March and April just recently received. According to Finance Minister Ardwell Irion, payments for May, June and July started last Wednesday, while the portal to apply for August and September opens Tuesday.
These delayed retroactive funds could help employers who did manage to keep their doors open – despite having to continue fully complying with tax and social premium obligations – hold their heads above water a few months longer. However, after then more earnings will likely be needed to make up the difference.
That can only happen if the dominant hospitality industry including the cruise sector makes a strong recovery going into the traditional high winter season. Several factors that determine such are external, but one the island’s inhabitants have direct influence over is the local COVID-19 situation, by vaccinating and taking protective measures.
This is a matter of public health but also the people’s very livelihood.