Tourism stipend phases out with $106M pricetag

| 23/05/2022 | 73 Comments
Chief Officer Wesley Howell

(CNS): Today the government issued what is likely to be the penultimate payment to displaced workers who were registered for the tourism stipend programme, as it transitions those who have still not returned to jobs in the sector onto different grants or other support initiatives through the Needs Assessment Unit. By the end of June government will have spent well over $106 million on supporting local tourism workers through the pandemic, according to the latest figures from the auditor general.

The Ministry of Labour has just completed a mandatory survey of the remaining recipients, and while the findings have not yet been released, Chief Officer Wesley Howell has said that the numbers have dropped again as more people confirm that they are back at work.

The second assessment of stipend recipients was to gauge the need for continued financial assistance beyond the lifetime of the stipend programme. As it winds down, Caymanians who need assistance to find work or training opportunities are being told to register with Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman (WORC), where they can access the help they need, including getting an assigned employment services officer for one-on-one job-seeking support.

“Thank you to those persons who contacted the ministry to advise that they were now employed and no longer needed the stipend, or that their circumstances changed and they would like to be removed from the programme,” Howell said. “It has helped us ensure that the resources allocated to this programme are put where they are truly needed.”

The Travel Cayman team has also been helping the ministry with the workload regarding this programme as they have been dealing with a lot of queries, Howell said. “Having additional dedicated resources to assist us each month to field queries and offer assistance with completing mandatory surveys allowed for customer concerns and queries to get answered in a timely manner, as we were receiving upwards of 50 to 100 calls a day,” he said.

The tourism stipend was a temporary programme put in place to help workers face the sudden closure of Cayman’s borders and a shutdown that lasted almost two years. But as the borders have reopened, tourism is now making a steady return so people are also returning to work and government is hoping to significantly shorten the list that once included more than 3,000 people.

Given the circumstances in March 2020 when the borders closed, the process of claiming the stipend was made relatively straightforward. People were asked for their last pay slips or invoices to show that their job or source of income was gone. But along the way few checks were made and the ministry has admitted that some people were claiming the money fraudulently. Several cases are now under investigation.

The names and email addresses of most of the recipients were made public due to a mistake by staff in the ministry, which led to widespread reports to the ministry about people on the list receiving the payments who were already working again. This included four people who were locked up at HMP Northward.

Despite some challenges with the stipend, the payments were essential for many people, such as tour bus drivers and boat captains, given the complete lockdown. However, the government is now faced with the challenge of withdrawing a payment that families have come to depend upon. And while people may be back in some kind of work, some are still only earning a fraction of their former salaries at a time when the cost of living is soaring.


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Category: Business, Government Administration, Politics, Tourism

Comments (73)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I received the stipend and am extremely grateful for the support that I desperately needed. To those that are criticizing try a mile in my shoes.

  2. Caymanian says:

    If we are looking to cut cost for the Government, maybe we should stop paying out all this money for these Cubans coming to our shores and calming free, Rent, Wifi, Food, Medical, and all the other free items they can get from Government.

    Caymanians are on the street and have on food to feeds their kids. But we are spending hundred’s of thousand’s a year on these people who just keep coming because they can get everything free here in Cayman. What about our people who are in need?

    The buck has to stop somewhere?

    We can’t go to the HSA and get free medical we have to pay and those of us who don’t have insurance will be billed and the HSA have not problem taking you to court using HSM to do so.

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  3. Michael Day says:

    Wow. Some very condescending and judgmental comments from many bitter, miserable, hateful people!

    The then Government had to act quickly and thankfully the public purse allowed for the offering of this stipend.

    Caymanians and permit holders were able to at least survive through some pretty unprecedented times. It was tough for many people and I am proud that my country could help its people (Caymanian and residents alike)

    Yes, there were some that were fraudulent in abusing the system, and I wish for them to be exposed, prosecuted and punished.

    How many of the wining posters here were thrown overnight into a zero income situation? How many could keep your lifestyles going on $1500 per month? The stipend was needed.

    I was not one of the recipients. I wish our tourism employees all the best as the industry ramps up.

    No pathetically anonymous.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    The ministry in charge of stipends is also in charge of border control. Yet they have been dishing out stipends to students in UK who are worked in tourism prior to going to UK on an education dept scholarship and also to Caymanians (again who were formerly employed in tourism) who are now living in the UK. Did it not occur to them to cross check with border control as to whether persons still lived here? World class civil service.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Once again we thank the government for all what they have done for us these past two years.they have done a lot for us and we are grateful may God continue to bless them as they move forward

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    • Anonymous says:

      Lol.

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    • Anonymous says:

      You do realize that all government does is take money from some tax payers pockets , use it to pay politicians inflated salaries and the those of the civil service, and then spend some on you? They don’t actually create any of that money. It’s not like you are getting a grant from an individual that made their own money. You should be thanking the tax payers that paid for it all, not government.

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  6. Anon says:

    If as the CMO suggests we reduce the CoVid restrictions what will the 200 plus employees of Travel Cayman do? Is that why the notice to abolish the need for a travel authorization certificate which appeared briefly on the website was removed so quickly.
    If the Travel Cayman dpt. Is disbanded where are all the people who “work” for that department be employed?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Um… Get a job?????

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    • Anonymous says:

      Not to worry – they’ll be occupied with monkey pox restrictions soon. Also note the other press release which slipped in that Travel Cayman is now apparently helping WORC reject permit applications. The Civil Service only ever expands.

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    • Just Saying says:

      So in truth what you are saying, Government should just keep paying wages for these post even if the TC department is no longer needed? They will have to apply for other jobs with in the other Government departments or in the private sectors. For some reason I don’t understand where some of us feels Government is getting all this money from. We need to find ways of securing new jobs as the country are now reopening fully.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Why do they think out of work tourism workers can survive on $1500 a month and pensioners on $1000?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Umm, because in work tourism workers are forced to survive on $1,200/month?

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    • Anonymous says:

      True bobo!!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because they are making it on 15k. Now shut up and go to the Shur-Fine aisle.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because our ministers have rocks for brains. You should not assume they can ‘think’.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Its supplemental to help you in a time of need. The idea isn’t for it to be your sole support, allowing you to become complacent and rely on it forever, and ever…

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    • Caymanian says:

      During the COVID we all had to find way to help support ourselves. $1500.00 is better than nothing. Some that is receiving this money don’t truly need it and yet they are still applying. I’m sure some out there were not making $1500.00 a month before COVID so what is the problem?

      • Anonymous says:

        The problem is that the government in paying more than the pension which is a self admission that the pension is not enough. They are the ones making the rules of pension cap.

    • Anonymous says:

      You shouldn’t pick a job then demand a certain lifestyle from it – -, you pick the lifestyle you desire, then get the education/training/job that will get you your lifestyle. Don’t like your circumstances? What are YOU doin’g about it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Today’s pensioners have had 50+ years of historically unprecedented global and local growth to prepare for their retirements…

  8. Anonymous says:

    I wonder what $106 million would do for the Cayman public school
    System?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Very little it seems. The annual budget for education has hovered around $80,000,000 for some time now.

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      • Accountability please says:

        How many children in the public schools? Love to see an accountability report that breaks down the Rducation Ministry cost of education per student per month so it can be compared with private schools.

        • Anonymous says:

          Here you go…
          https://www.caymancurrent.org/2021/01/23/analysis-the-per-student-cost-of-cayman-islands-schools/

          “The average annual cost per student increased by 17% over the 5 years, from $14,811 in 2014 to $17,264 in 2018.
          The average cost per student in public schools was 66% higher than the average cost per student in private schools.
          The average cost per student in public schools was the 2nd-highest cost per student in 2015, when compared to 33 OECD countries. (Only Luxembourg was higher.)”

          • Anonymous says:

            Not sure where you are getting your ‘averages’ from. Using the data from your link: Multiplying the pupils by expense at each school gets the the school expense totals. Dividing that by the total students gives you the ‘average student expenses. Total schools expenses ($96,627,680). Total students (8970). So the average student expense is $10,772.

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            • Anonymous says:

              8970 includes private schools which aren’t paid for out of the education budget. There are 4654 students in public school so average student expense was $86m/4654=$18,400 which is more or less inline with the report. Of course including an extra 4000 private kids in your average will bring it down but that number is meaningless.

    • Anonymous says:

      It would make a few politicians rich.

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      • Julius says:

        How would $106m in stipends from the public purse make any politicians rich?

        Is it being suggested that politicians are getting kickbacks from stipend recipients?

        Hard to see how payment of stipends makes any politicians rich.

        Easy to see how salary increase for MPs provides elected politicians more money.

        Trying to follow how a few politicians get rich by stipend payments.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Let me tell you exactly how the payment of stipends makes politicians rich –
          Because those who received the stipend are likely to vote those people in again! So they can earn their huge salaries for doing literally nothing (apart from voting to give themselves pay rises again)
          Not rocket science

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    • Anonymous says:

      I think the stipend is a more cost effective way of buying votes tho.

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      • Julius says:

        How many stipend recipients are registered voters?

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        • Anonymous says:

          It should be all of them! Otherwise they would not be eligible for the stipend

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          • Junius says:

            That is not correct. They could be eligible to register to vote, but have not registered. I know many Caymanians, who are eligible to register to vote, that do not register.

            It is widely known that, if you are on the registered voters list, your name can come up for jury duty. So, to avoid jury duty as well as other reasons, many Caymanians do not register to vote.

  9. Anonymous says:

    When will Travel Cayman end?

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  10. Say it like it is says:

    I guarantee we will hear no more about the double dippers who claimed the allowance whilst working. That’s how Gov’t works, throw taxpayer’s money out the window and no accountability.

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    • Anonymous says:

      everyone is still struggling. Tourism has not picked up to the point people are able to live again yet pension starting in July??? More money for people.to pay out employers also will feel it…At least wait till Jan 2023 to hopefully see an increase. People are still canceling their trips due to their kids are not vaccinated. They need to look at their decision and maybe hold off a little longer.

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      • Anonymous says:

        No, they should have stopped this pay-to-sit sham months ago. Wasted money for those who didn’t want to work. If I lose my job, I figure it out!

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      • Caymanian says:

        In fairness in regards to kids not being able to travel because they are not vaccinated. It’s the countries you are flying to that has those polices not Cayman alone so you can say it’s Cayman polices alone that is causing this.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    How many votes does $106m buy?

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  12. Unhappy Caymanian says:

    End payments whist keeping everybody in Covid retardation.

    Why not just simply move on everything in entirety? To normality?

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  13. Corruption is endemic says:

    How much went to employed people or workers that were never even in tourism jobs?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Shut up foreigner, we needed that money. Thank you PPM and PACT!

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      • Anonymous says:

        Yes and it’s the foreigners that are paying big part of the bill!
        No I am not a foreigner!
        So many people have always had their hands out to government. We all wonder why the cost of living here is so high!
        Welfare country.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Replacing one corrupted social program with a few newer ones so they can say the stipend program has ended. The vote buying gravy train rolls on.

    Here’s a thought PACT. How about some actual long term solutions for your people instead of bandaids.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    This scheme has been a disgrace. It’s the perfect example of money going to those who don’t need it, while there are people truly suffering in our society who can’t get the fair help they need. Are we not fed up with this ongoing corruption and waste of our public funds? Much of this money could have been better used for much needed public services instead of being used to line the pockets of those who still had full time jobs, those who had never worked in tourism, and those who just get money because of who they know. I just wish every recipient could be properly audited and be punished for fraud where the claim wasn’t found to be just.

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    • Caymanian says:

      I totally agree, many were getting handouts from Government and did not need it. They have no shame or consideration for those who truly needed that money.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    re-audit this nonsense asap.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    How about we prosecute the fraudsters, confiscate some of their ill-gotten gains and give them to persons who are genuinely in need.

    And how come we have unemployed Caymanian tour bus and taxi drivers while hundreds of foreign nationals are employed on work permits to drive busses (and boats)?

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    • Anonymous says:

      …and deport the foreign nationals amongst the fraudsters. The ones that have literally stolen from the Caymanian people. Just like our law provides and even requires.

      But of course we won’t. We don’t follow laws around here.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because of the Slavery conditions within the industry.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t it nice how a Commission of Inquiry in the BVI can be so beneficial to all of the other Overseas Territories?

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