COVID-19 Response Budget: Government To Top Up Accounts

Those who have less than $1000 in their Fiji National Provident Fund account, and are eligible for withdrawal, will have their funds topped up by Government.
27 Mar 2020 09:57
COVID-19 Response Budget: Government To Top Up Accounts

Those who have less than $1000 in their Fiji National Provident Fund account, and are eligible for withdrawal, will have their funds topped up by Government.

This, and a range of measures to assist Fijian workers were last night announced by Minister for Economy and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum announced serious measures to assist every Fijian whose livelihood has been affected because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Reiterating what the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has earlier reminded people, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum stressed that this was the biggest threat in recent decades.

“This is a crisis bigger than anything the world has seen in a century. Hundreds of people are dying every day. Hospitals in the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nations are being pushed to their breaking points.

Who is eligible?

From 6 April 2020, or possibly starting today, Fijian workers in the hospitality sector who have lost their jobs or have had their hours cut since 1 February 2020 can –– for now –– access an initial $1,000 from their FNPF accounts, with additional funds to be considered as the situation unfolds further.

“If any worker does not have this full amount available, the government will directly subsidise the difference. So, if you only have $100 in your account, you’ll be receiving a $900 boost from your government.

“All those employees affected by our nationwide physical distancing requirements who worked at gyms, fitness centres, swimming pools and nightclubs, along with employees in the Lautoka confined area who have been placed on leave without pay or had their hours cut, will be able to access an initial $500 from their FNPF accounts.”

If other parts of the country are locked down, impacted workers in these areas will be able to access these payments as well.

“The government will also subsidise the difference for any Fijians who do not have this full amount available.

“This has made accessing the workplace difficult, if not impossible, for some employees in the Lautoka confined area. I’m speaking of the factory floor workers, the baristas, the bartenders and the staff at gymnasiums and fitness centres.

“Furthermore, for those affected in the informal sector in the lockdown areas, government will also be providing a one-off relief payment of $150 for all those who have a street trader or hawker licence,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

These measures – through FNPF – will inject at least a total of $150 million back into the economy, topped off with another $60 million contribution from government.

Reduction in FNPF payment:

“For all employees in Fiji, we will reduce their FNPF contribution from 8 per cent to 5 per cent effective from 1 April 2020 through December 31 2020 –– putting $80 million in the pockets of Fijian workers for the next nine months, while still maintaining a steady contribution to their superannuation scheme,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum announced.

However, he further cautioned that this does not mean that people make a mad dash to FNPF offices.

“While we know the need is great, no Fijian should make a mad dash for your nearest FNPF office on 1 April 2020. It’s your money, you will get it without putting yourself at risk of queuing up too close to others. Your money will get to you safely and quickly directly into your bank accounts, M-PAiSA, or through Post Fiji. FNPF will announce further details.”

Government will also be paying down sick leave for those employees whose employers do not have the means to do the payment.

“To shift the burden of sick leave off of businesses and ensure employees do not have to use their leave, the government will pay 21 days COVID-19 leave for low-income Fijians who have tested positive for the virus, as certified by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services. “To keep things flowing smoothly with minimal disruption, any affected employers should continue to pay salaries as normal, and government will then reimburse this directly to the employer.

“If salaries cannot be paid, government will fund these salaries upfront. This applies to all workers with less than $30,000 in annual income.

“Fijians in the informal sector who are confirmed to have contracted the virus will be paid a one-off sum of $1,000.”

Edited by Ivamere Nataro


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