No job with loans to pay: Life in limbo for tourism employees on the wage subsidies

The harsh reality of life during a pandemic when the tourism industry which is the mainstay of many families on the island is non-existent, anxiety can and has become a constant factor in people’s lives.

A group of employees and business owners from the tourism sector contacted BCN news last week fearing what will happen to them now that the government’s wage subsidy is coming to an end this month.

Some of these people are very concerned because they have financial obligations to the bank. A couple of these people who wish to remain anonymous said that the local Development Bank has already been in contact with them last week.

One person told us that the actions of the Bank to contact them soon after the announcement that the wage subsidy is coming to an end, was insensitive.

“I find that letter very insensitive of them (bank), we who are on the wage subsidy with loans are already stressing about how we are even going to put food on the table, pay for power and put petrol in our cars. And here we have the bank only thinking about how they will get paid. Just compounds the stress even more”.

BCN new obtained a copy of the email from the bank which reads like any letter from the bank, checking in on it’s clients and wanting to know if their clients have found any other form of employment.

It went on to say “We just want to discuss some options before the GWS (Government wage subsidies) ends so e can have something in place to avoid your loan going into arrears”.

The bank says that they can look into a reduction but not low enough that the interest cannot be covered.

BCN news contacted the bank and spoke to one of their officers who said that they just wanted to speak to their clients to find ways to help them meet their repayments once the subsidies end.

She said the Bank made concessions back in May last year to freeze the repayment of tourism business loans and give 50% discount on repayments for personal loans of the people working in the tourism sector while earning the wage subsidies.

Meanwhile the Minister of Finance Crossley Tatui has confirmed that the government is considering options. He said that the assistance from the government is not going to end completely.

“It’s not coming to the end. We are working very hard to see how we can continue the arrangement with changes to the way we calculate the subsidies so that it’s fair to everyone especially those who have no one working for the government.”

Minister Tatui referred to his budget statement last year about not taking advantage of COVID 19 for personal gains or take advantage of the system.

“We need to work together. People are nervous and financially people are struggling so we’re looking at options like redeployment from the private sector to the government”.

However, some tourism operators are saying that they are getting on in age and their skills sets are limited to the tourism industry.

BCN news is aware that the Niue Chamber of Commerce and the Niue Tourist Authority Board have been meeting to decide on options for the government to consider to help these people.

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