OLIVIA “Babsy” Grange, whose portfolio comprises the entertainment and culture ministries, said she is delighted by the positive response to the COVID-19 stimulus package being allocated to individuals within the sectors.
“It is the largest COVID-19 grant being awarded to any sector… to any individual. This is historic, as the entertainment, cultural and creative sectors have never before in the history of Jamaica benefited this way,” Grange told the Jamaica Observer.
“It happened for Christmas and the new year when people need a little extra to spend and the sector has been suffering; it may be the hardest hit during this [COVID-19] period and so the amounts that were given to individuals are greatly appreciated based on the feedback I've had,” she continued.
Grange, who also has responsibility for the sport and gender ministries, said of the more than 800 applications received so far, a total of $6.18 million has been paid out.
“So far 103 individuals have been provided with grants; they've actually gotten the money in their hands; it was sent and uploaded to their accounts. We're sending off another 55 as we speak,” she said.
“It's not only for entertainers. It cuts across all the entertainment, cultural and creative sectors. If you are an actor; singer; songwriter; musician; you lift the boxes on stage, which means you're a stage hand; you are a stylist; a designer; a tailor; it is available to everyone in the sector,” she continued.
In late December, Grange made the announcement of a $90-m special support package for members of the entertainment, culture, and creative industries.
To qualify, prospective beneficiaries should be registered on the ministry's e-registry; be a member of an established industry body; and, have an account with a Jamaican bank or possess an NCB Prepaid Mastercard to facilitate payment.
“Once you've applied and is compliant, it takes three to five days to receive the funds,” said the government minister.
Grange had initially estimated that 1,000 individual grants would have been dispersed, but has since revised that figure.
“We had originally expected about 1,000 individual grants would be given, but based on the response, we may exceed that. But that's fine as we are prepared to provide these grants to whatever numbers apply for this benefit,” she said.
The entertainment and culture minister said a contingency plan was in place for older members of the various fraternities who had challenges in applying.
“A large number of the applicants are not compliant – either they are not members of an organisation, or they don't have a bank account, not members of the e-Registry, or did not complete their applications properly. So we have provided support for these individuals. There is a team from the ministry that actually calls these individuals and assist them in walking through the process and becoming compliant to ensure that they will benefit from these grants. No one is being left behind,” she said.
“Some of the older artistes and musicians are not so tech-savvy. They're not that proficient in using the computer or going digital so we provide the support for them. We have two hotline numbers – 876-553-0550 and 876-553-0560 – and an e-mail: email@example.com. We have made the process as easy as possible,” Grange added.