Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis today announced a measured approach to re-opening the economy in five phases and an assistance programme for renters whose income has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Prime Minister said that when it comes to re-opening the economy, it will be gradual and deliberate. At each step, proper health and physical distancing protocols will be mandatory
and will be enforced.
During a Communication to the House of Assembly on 27 April the Prime Minister unveiled a 5-phase re-opening plan that covers economic and social aspects recommended by the National COVID-19 Coordinating Committee. Phases 1a and 1b cover essential services and hurricane preparedness, delivery and curbside service and construction. Phase 2 covers expanding operations in the Family Islands and scaling up operations of existing services. Phase 3 allows for the introduction of non-essential operations. Phase 4 covers the re-opening of restaurants, movie theaters and cultural events and Phase 5, re-starting tourism and opening the borders. The Bahamas is currently in Phase 1A. The general timing of the phased re-opening will be predicated upon metrics and guidelines by health officials, the Prime Minister emphasized.
“As in other jurisdictions, we must also have the flexibility to make changes quickly and to tighten restrictions if the numbers do not move in the right direction,”said Prime Minister Minnis. Regarding the rental assistance programme, the Prime Minister announced that qualified renters will be able to defer 40 percent of their rent over a 3 month period, effective 1 April.
The programme is limited to residential rentals and is only for those whose employment or income has been affected by COVID-19. Individuals will have to provide documentation to their landlord to qualify for this program. During the three-month period, landlords will not be able to evict tenants who are in good standing prior to April or disconnect utilities, said Prime Minister Minnis. At the end of the three-month period, individuals will have 12 months to pay back the deferred amount. The Prime Minister emphasized that those who are still able to should pay their rent in full. To qualify for this program, a renter must meet the following criteria:
- They must be renting residential property inside The Bahamas;
- They must be paying a monthly rent of $2,000 per month or less;
- They must be no more than one month in arrears with rent;
- They must be a Bahamian citizen or legal resident;
- They must be able to demonstrate that their employment or income stream has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The programme will be mandatory for all landlords for their qualifying tenants. The revised Emergency Order that will give effect to the assistance program will be released in due course, said the Prime Minister. “It is my hope that renters and landlords can work together through this unprecedented time to implement this program with full cooperation by both sides,” said Prime Minister Minnis.