Corona Virus Takes a Toll on Cayman’s Most Vulnerable
The lack of cash being circulated in the Cayman Islands due to business closures is hitting hardest for those who were already having a tough time, with lower income households feeling the pinch more severely than ever before.
Businesses and work opportunities have vanished with no prospect of returning soon, leaving many to wonder about what the future holds as uncertainty mounts.
With the recent closure of Don Fosters’ Dive shop - an institution in the Cayman business community - and others looming, this ominous forecast for enterprise in Cayman and indeed around the world is exasperated.
The plight has meant that cordial family ties, which normally prevail and have defined Cayman life over the years, are not as reliable a source to fall back on. Instances where persons would have been able to rely on an occasional meal or a hand-up from more ‘well to do’ relatives and friends in tight times, has meant that once outstretched hands have had to recoil in an effort to not only consolidate but to also safeguard against the spread of infection.
The dwindling pool of resources and money has been cushioned somewhat for some businesses in the Cayman Islands due to money remittance services being closed early in the Territory, which has meant that much of the funds that would have been sent overseas before uncertainty became as pronounced as it has in recent days is still available for local circulation.
The antithesis of this however, is that those whom are now stuck in the Cayman due to logistics, bad timing or poor planning on their part, are unable to receive money as well.
Recent restrictions regarding venturing along the coastline and beaches have meant that traditional methods of sourcing food for many Islanders are not on the table and residents are barred from fishing.
With a drought now in full-swing, a paltry mango season to boot and restrictions on movement making picking mangoes a non-starter for those who do not have trees in their yards, many Caymanians are now wondering what this year’s Hurricane Season will have in store.
“Every turn you look there is something. We are boxed in and the only option is the supermarkets for food. The Farmer’s market is now closed and it is getting harder to source local produce. If you need to borrow some little thing, you can’t even to go to people’s homes anymore and the list goes on. I tell you, if I never see another year like 2020 again as long as I live, it will be too soon,” lamented Fisherman Persley Ebanks.
One constellation for many however, has been the announcement given by the Islands’ Premier, the Honourable Alden McLaughlin - during the daily Government press briefings - which informed citizens and residents that in the coming weeks and months ahead many of them will be able to access a percentage of their pension savings.
Persons are able to take out up to CI$10,000 and up to 25 percent of the remaining amount, though the Premier warned that funds in many pension plans may decreased due to impact the COVID-19 has had on markets around the world.
The plan is only for the private sector currently. Civil servants are not included.
It will take up to seven days to process pension withdrawals administratively and then up to 45 days to receive the money.
Unemployed persons with pension plans are also eligible, except those already on pension “drawing down their pension”, according to the Premier, who cautioned that if individuals do not need the funds, they should not take them.
Announcements such as this have made the Government’s press briefings and the vital information they provide something many Caymanians look forward to as the highlight of the day, as most activities in the Cayman Islands have ceased.
Many banks in the Cayman Islands are also offering a three-month break on mortgages and loan payments. Though Islanders say there without income and jobs, it getting much harder to source groceries, toiletries and other essential items.
Fuel costs are also decreasing incrementally in the Cayman Islands but not on pace with the rest of the world and many who were already having a tough time are now in dire straights.
The Islands’ priority at this time remains centered around saving lives at all costs and the Premier has remained steadfast in this stance.
The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce has been holding public discussions and advising individuals on Government policies and regulations regarding businesses and immediate actions they can take with staff, as well as other concerns.
Currently, there has been no plan announced with regard to businesses reopening in the Cayman Islands.