Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan has admitted that an earlier announcement about plans to halve the monthly $1,500 tourism stipend in November and December had been a “scare tactic” to try to get displaced tourism workers to start looking for jobs.
Speaking on Radio Cayman’s ‘For The Record’ Monday morning, Bryan said the stipend originally had been put in place to protect and provide financial aid to people who were left without work when the borders closed last year.
He said that research had shown that, in Cayman and internationally, people receiving financial assistance were reluctant to “go find work”.
Currently, the government and its Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman (WORC) are running a campaign for displaced employees who are receiving the stipend to register with WORC to be placed in jobs in the tourism industry. The campaign aims to match those who have signed up with WORC with jobs listed by members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association.
Earlier this month, Bryan announced that it was mandatory for all stipend recipients to register with WORC. Of the 3,396 people receiving the stipend, as of 25 Aug., 1,075 had failed to sign up with the agency, the minister noted at a press briefing last week.
After government extended a new invitation for people who had missed earlier chances to apply for the stipend, another 442 people applied for it and those are being processed. Those new recipients will also be required to register with WORC.
On the radio show, the minister explained why he previously stated that the stipend would be reduced to $750 in November and December, in anticipation of the tourism industry being back in action following the border reopening, and why that position had now changed.
“I must say I did it as a scare tactic, so they could get signed up,” he said. “The political negativity from it forced me to pull my hand because the truth is we intend to give them the $1,500 in November and December.
“Ultimately, my strategy for forcing them to go out and find work has been depleted now. but the thinking is they need to know that eventually this money is going to stop and you need to find work.”
In July, Parliament’s Finance Committee approved an additional $27.5 million to continue payments of the tourism stipend until the end of the year.
Bryan said Monday that the government is paying almost $6 million a month in tourism stipends.