Medical Doctor and proprietor of Bougainvillea Clinic, Dr Heskith A. Vanterpool says while he had committed to paying his staff for the first 6-day curfew in the Virgin Islands, with the new extended curfew taking effect in the territory, he said it will now add pressure on him and the business community to sustain employees.
'The question is, how do they get paid and I understand in a previous statement, the Minister of Labour [Hon Vincent O. Wheatley (R9)] suggesting that we should pay the staff causing them to stay home, but that is a very great burden on businesses," Dr Vanterpool said on the Wednesday, April 1, 2020 special edition of "Honestly Speaking' on ZBVI 780 AM.
Cushioning the effects of COVID-19
According to the doctor, Social Security should now step in to cushion the effects on not just businesses but for employees who would not be working for about three weeks by the time the curfew is finished.
"For the last many years we have been paying as employees and employers, 4 percent of the employee's salary to Social Security for sickness benefits and the employers also pay 4 percent, so it is a total of 8 percent."
He said more monies are deducted for other benefits and Social Security pays for a sickness related leave; however, he said recommendations were made for "pandemic leave".
"I had never heard about pandemic leave before but it was recommended that we give something called pandemic leave to those persons who are working but have health issues, it may be better for them to stay at home rather than risk getting the Coronavirus infection," he said.
Leaved granted for health reasons
Dr Vanterpool noted that those types of people would suffer if they do get the virus and that at his medical institutions, doctors had approved leave as a result of the pandemic situation, with some cases having accompanying Social Security forms submitted.
"This is a national, in fact, international sickness-related situation, people might not be sick but they are forced to lose their income because of a sickness that is going around. The virus is affecting all of us."
He said Social Security having accumulated monies over the years from employee and employer contributions, should, therefore, be looked at to pay benefits to unemployed people as a result.
Dr Vanterpool also pointed out that the situation now is a special one and that provisions have to be made, given the global crisis and for people who are in need, "Social Security has been collecting funds over the years," he said.
US Stimulus Package comparison
As a result of no productivity in the business community, Dr Vanterpool also called for support in relation to employers, "Businesses who have been paying need to get some kind of compensation as well," he said.
Dr Vanterpool pointed to the United Sstates of America (USA) where a stimulus package has been developed for payouts to families and individuals who qualify, and who may have suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic situation.
"This is a health-related situation and we have paid into Social Security over the years and I believe that the Social Security Board or Social Security system should make some sort of a contribution to those people who are not having an income because of this pandemic situation," Dr Vanterpool said.
Meanwhile, Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert on Saturday, March 28, 2020, said the Social Security Board (SSB) Fund is "very robust".