Construction sector among worst-affected

BLUE collar workers have been hit much harder by the coronavirus pandemic than white collar workers, latest States statistics show.

States chief executive Paul Whitfield with Deputies Heidi Soulsby and Gavin St Pier at Thursday's briefing. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 27952514)
States chief executive Paul Whitfield with Deputies Heidi Soulsby and Gavin St Pier at Thursday's briefing. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 27952514)

Some sectors of the economy are struggling considerably more than others, with the construction industry appearing to be the hardest hit.

More than 600 claims have been submitted to the business support unit from this sector alone.

The hospitality and visitor economy and transport providers are also said to be suffering ‘significantly’.

The finance sector, which is the engine of the island’s economy, has shown the least amount of impact from the crisis, with many staff able to operate from home.

More than £800,000 has been paid out in benefits, to more than 1,000 people who have made claims for unemployment or sickness benefit, income support and the newly-established hardship fund.

In the first week of operation, 156 grants to small businesses have been approved, amounting to £468,000. The new payroll co-funding scheme has also approved 24 applications, totalling about £100,000.

The financial support measures also include deferral of certain taxes and other costs for businesses, such as commercial TRP and employers’ social security contributions.

So far, these deferrals have amounted to £3.4m., with 877 approved claims.

The task of processing claims is huge and States chief executive Paul Whitfield said about 20% of all claims have been processed.

He urged people still waiting to bear with them a little longer.

‘We are aware that many are waiting for their claims to be processed and we continue to evaluate how we can safely put more resources to both the hardship fund and the support for business work streams.

‘I would particularly ask those of you who are chasing with follow-up calls just to have a little bit of patience because all the calls have to be answered.’

Regarding unemployment benefit, Mr Whitfield said a further 120 applicants had been paid and 100 people were having their applications processed.

An exit strategy to the lockdown is being developed and it will start when the evidence shows that the peak has been passed.

For construction workers who are struggling financially, Mr Whitfield did offer some light at the end of the tunnel.

‘We’ll be talking more and more about this in the coming weeks, about how do we align our strategic thinking in terms of public health with our overall recovery and how we regenerate people back into the working economy and how do we do that.

‘It’s going to take an awful lot of thinking through and Gavin [Deputy Gavin St Pier] mentioned earlier on that we’re going to have to apply thinking and logic to who should go back first.

‘The construction industry is a good example, where you can see it’s been hit very early on, and we’re looking at how we can, by following the Public Health guidelines, introduce a modicum of return to work in a safe way and still manage that curve.’

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