Earnings cap on seamen benefits increases

| 30/11/2015 | 15 Comments
Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands Seafarers Association, Red Bay

(CNS): Veteran retired seamen who already have a personal income of up to $3,000 per month will now be able to claim the ex-gratia benefit as the community affairs minister has increased the previous cap from a household income of $2,000pcm in line with the monthly allowance for other benefits. In the Legislative Assembly last week Osbourne Bodden set out the new qualifying criteria and plans for greater scrutiny, which he said had been revised following a review of the benefit.

Bodden said that the revisions had been approved by Cabinet and will take immediate effect but plans to shift the management of the special benefit to the Needs Assessment Unit would not take place until next July and the start of the new financial year.

Government introduced the CI$550 benefit for qualified seaman and their surviving spouses fifteen years ago.

“There is no doubt about the worth and value of the contributions made by our seamen to the development of these islands,” Bodden said in the LA as he set out the changes. Noting that his ministry was responsible for the oversight and administration of the ex-gratia benefit, he pointed to some challenges that emerged in trying to streamline the process and adopt appropriate control mechanisms to reduce discrepancies.

An internal review had identified weaknesses in the system, leading to the need to revise the conditions of ex-gratia eligibility, he said, adding that he was confident the new criteria would improve the process and control, while ensuring the intended outcome of the original policy to provide financial relief to seamen who, as seniors, had no fixed income and no dependable means of a livelihood.

“These changes will ensure that the process is more streamlined,” he said, claiming that greater efficiencies in the approval and disbursement of the benefit would be realised.

One of the main issues will be that all those receiving the benefit that are not signed off by the Seafarers Association will be much more closely scrutinized to ensure they were genuine. However concerns were raised by members in the LA that without a time served criteria, it even more people could become eligible. In addition, the issue of genuine veterans not receiving any benefits at all had not been addressed.

Revisions to the criteria are as follows:

  1. Applicants who were not Caymanian at the time they sailed are referred to Cabinet for their consideration.
  2. Total monthly household income of $2,000.00 is changed to total personal income not exceeding $3,000.00 per month inclusive of any Government assistance. This new amount will also apply to business owners who will continue to be assessed by the Needs Assessment Unit as deemed necessary.
  3. Affidavits of time spent at sea are signed off by the Cayman Islands Seafarers’ Association or the Veterans & Seamen Society for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
  4. The definition of resident is a person who maintains residency in the Cayman Islands for a period of not less than eight (8) months per year.
  5. In situations where the recipient/spouse is overseas for medical purposes and has submitted the requested certified documentation and is a permanent and full time resident of the Cayman Islands, that the Ministry is able to take these exceptions into consideration and continue to provide the benefit.
  6. Surviving spouse upon applying will be processed immediately (subject to availability of funds).
  7. If a surviving spouse remarries, the ex-gratia benefit will cease immediately.
  8. To change the definition of seaman to: a sailor or officer that first went to sea before the 1st January, 1985 and who received pay or gratuity for assisting in the international transport of a ship, boat or vessel, cargo, and/or passenger from one port to another.
  9. To review the criteria for Seamen Ex-gratia Benefits every three (3) years.
  10. To grandfather in the existing recipients of the Seamen Ex-Gratia Benefit as of 30 June 2015 to exempt them from the criteria. If the original application is found to be fraudulent, they will be removed immediately.
  11. To transfer all administrative and oversight functions of the Seamen’s Ex-Gratia Benefit to the newly established Needs Assessment Unit effective 1 July 2016 pending approval of the 16/17 budget.
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Category: Government Finance, Politics

Comments (15)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    So CIG is picking up the tabs for the fact that these seamen were employed to undercut the wages of unionised labor?

  2. Anonymous says:

    There are many seafarers who have been receiving this pension and who earn far more than $2000 or even $3000 per month and yet they have been collecting this pension for years having defrauded the CIG for over $100,000 + over more than 15 years. Some are millionaire business men who certainly are not struggling and requiring assistance. It is time that all seafarers become ethically and moral in that if you have a job and are receiving more than $3000, you would be defrauding the Cayman Govt and the people of the Cayman Islands if you draw this pension which is only for the benefit of those who have little income and are in need of social services.

  3. Teacher says:

    Criterion is the singular of criteria!

  4. Fred the piemaker says:

    So we are going to continue paying people who do not meet the criteria just because they have already received money, th only exception being if we are sure they fraudulently applied for it? So under this model those with significant earnings will still get their handouts, the remarried spouses will, those who live overseas and non Caymanians when they went to sea – all of them continue to get money even once we recognise the problem, even though we cannot afford to give it to people who DO meet the criteria. Either mad or deliberate desire to prefer certain favoured few.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Well criteria 1 is a breach of human rights obligations for a start.

  6. The Country With No Plan... says:

    Seriously? As a Civil Servant I just got a 3% increase, but Seamen/Veterans get their eligibility increased by 66% percent from $2,000 to $3,000? Are we determined to “welfare” as many of our people as we can, so as to make them dependent on the Government to secure their vote? , 49% of our Labour Force ( who are not at Seamen age) and who have children, and maybe unemployed or employed should now get a cheque too? Seriously Ozzie? That’s the best you and Dorine can do? Shame on you!

    • Anonymous says:

      @1:51 Just a correction, an increase from 2,000 to 3,000 is 33.33%. Also,The income qualifying criterion has been increased from $2,000 to $3,000 per month. This does not mean that those receiving $2,000 will now receive $3,000. I feel your frustration but it is important to understand what the change.

      This doesn’t change the fact that the program is unfortunately being abused / defrauded by some.

  7. Anonymous says:

    and the vote buying continues….paid for by the private sector…..

  8. Anonymous says:

    more ppm nonsense…. that flies in the face of e&y/miller shaw reports……

  9. Anonymous says:

    If their initial application is found to be fraudulent why would they not be immediately prosecuted and required to pay back all monies received, with interest?

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