Extra cash for more than 300 pensioners

More than 300 retired Cayman Islands civil servants who do not make enough money each month to pay their bills are now receiving a $650-per-month payment from the government-run Public Service Pensions Board.

The $650 monthly payment, announced during last year’s budget proposal and which was due to take effect in January, was not paid at that time because regulations to clarify precisely who qualified for those payments had to be approved.

The regulations were finalized in June and Premier Alden McLaughlin’s office said Friday that those receiving the additional payment would receive backdated amounts starting from Jan. 1, 2018.

The ex gratia payment is due to increase again in January 2019 to $750 per month. The payment increase was also given to Cayman Islands seamen and veterans. Previously, those individuals who qualified received $550 per month.

Public Service Pensions Board officials are still trying to determine the total number of retired civil servants who qualify for the additional payments.

“We estimate that more than 300 public sector pensioners will qualify at the $650 threshold in 2018 and the $750 threshold in 2019,” said Jewel Evans Lindsey, managing director of the Public Service Pensions Board. Those numbers do not include the seamen – who number about 1,100 – and veterans beneficiaries.

By 2019, the ex gratia payments scheme will cost taxpayers $2.5 million per year, according to government estimates – if the number of civil service recipients is currently correct. That figure only includes the civil servants receiving benefits, not seamen or veterans.

The difficulty for some older Caymanian civil servants is that, for most of their working lives, they did not pay into a pension scheme before retirement. When the public sector pension scheme was started in the 1990s, some workers did not receive enough money to allow them to pay their bills, forcing them to seek assistance from social services.

The additional ex gratia payments will be made where the regulations find the retired civil servant’s earnings are insufficient.

The person receiving the benefit has to be Caymanian, have at least 10 years of pensionable service with government, and must have turned 60 before June 1, 2018. After June 1, the age requirement to receive the benefits is increased to 65 – the current retirement age.

If retired civil servants wish to check their eligibility for the benefit, they can complete a survey on the Public Service Pensions Board website at www.pspb.ky.

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