Social distancing may impact the viability of some businesses even once tourism resumes.

More than 2,700 people left without work amid the collapse of the tourism industry have applied for a stipend from government.

They are being offered $1,000 a month for up to three months to help get them through the lean period ahead.

Cayman’s borders will remain closed until September at least and tourist volumes are not expected to reach pre-COVID levels for some time.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said Tuesday that more than 2,700 people had submitted applications for financial support.

The monthly stipend is specific to Caymanians involved in the tourism industry and is separate from the support offered through the Needs Assessment Unit to any Caymanian in need.

He said the tourism sector needed targeted support because many of the jobs that had been lost would not come back in short order, even if the borders can be reopened before the end of the year.

“Tourism has crashed,” he said. “There is nothing happening save for restaurants and bars which have just been allowed to reopen.

“This is the most challenged sector and it is only right and proper that government should focus on trying to assist people who have no work and are unlikely to have the possibility of any work for some time.”

McLaughlin acknowledged that a $1,000 monthly stipend would not amount to a lot of money for those workers, but said it was designed to help them through a tough period. Government is also looking at scholarships to support people getting retrained and grants to help businesses transition to other sectors of the economy.

If all 2,700 applicants are granted the stipend, that would amount to an expense of approximately $8.1 million for government.

The premier said the NAU was there for people from other sectors who had lost work and was currently helping more than 10,000 people.

He expects the release of pension savings to begin shortly for those who applied – something that will further ease the financial burden for people out of work.

McLaughlin said there had been 20,000 applications for pension funds under government’s scheme to allow people access to a portion of their retirement savings.

Along with the reopening of the construction industry and the anticipated return to work of almost every domestic business in Cayman over the next few weeks, he said this would get money circulating in the economy again.

The premier said government was pursuing a $500 million line of credit to ensure it could continue to provide support for people and businesses for the duration of the economic crisis that has resulted from the coronavirus pandemic.

He added that government remains hopeful that high-speed testing at gateway airports could provide a safe way for tourists to return to the island this year.

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  1. But nothing it appears for those thousands of tourism industry workers who are not Caymanians. People who came here in good faith, took a low paid job and are now jobless and broke through no fault of their own.

    The impact is not just on these fellow human beings who live among us but on all the local businesses and landlords they can no longer afford to pay.

    “Let them go back to where they came from.” We hear. Possible if they come from Jamaica, Cuba or Honduras. Assuming they will even be allowed to return.

    But flights to the Philippines or India are some $2,000. An impossible sum for those who had been working for $10 per hour or less.

    And how will our most important industry be staffed when it eventually reopens if all their trained staff leave?