2,000-plus received unemployment subsidy

Over 2,000 employees in the tourism sector, where were either made redundant or put on special leave or working reduced hours, have benefitted from the $2 million wage subsidy offered by the Government.

This was confirmed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Chamber of Commerce, Lemauga Hobart Vaai, on Thursday in response to queries from the Samoa Observer. 

The Samoa $2 million rescue package was approved by the Cabinet in October last year. 

"We have over 2000 so far [who have] benefited," he said in an email response to this newspaper. "Around 60 [per cent] redundant, 25 [per cent] reduced hours, and 15 [per cent] leave without pay.

"When we closed applications in October we had just over 1,500 but as per usual we had a lot of last minute/late applications from [the] business community."

The total exceeds the expected number of approximately 1,200 people. 

The money was drawn from the $83 million Phase II fund of the Government’s Coronavirus Stimulus Package that was released in July last year. 

Staff who were made redundant each received $300; those placed on leave without pay received $200 and employees with reduced hours or working part-time received $100. 

The payout is the Government's effort to bail out the tourism sector and prevent it from completely shutting down after the global pandemic, which has put Samoa under strict restrictions for a year now.

Businesses that are eligible include: hotels and or resorts; restaurants and bars; car rentals companies; manufacturing exporters; travel agents; businesses operating at Faleolo International Airport; and Talofa Airways.

The Ministry of Finance (M.O.F.) worked in partnership with Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (S.C.C.I.) to produce a fact sheet for the scheme, outlining the criteria to qualify for the assistance. 

Some of the criteria include: up to date Samoan business licenses; redundancies were a result of the Covid-19 State of Emergency; workers had to take leave-without-pay due to S.O.E. and workers had to work reduced hours or at a reduced rate during the S.O.E.

An employee of the tourism industry is also eligible for the Government-sponsored training opportunities overseen by the Samoa Tourism Authority.

The short-term programmes are conducted in collaboration with the National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) and the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (A.P.T.C.).

The initiative, which has seen over 700 participants so far, targeted hospitality employees and sought to improve their skills ranging from customer service to financial management. 

To compensate for their travel, food and other expenses, training participants received $100 for every week they attended. 

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