The island’s thousands of craft vendors are seeking to resume operations as the tourism industry reopens, however, months of financial hardship, owing to the closure of the tourism industry, have taken a toll on their businesses.
Dr. Phillips, along with Shadow Minister of Tourism Dr. Wykeham McNeill, in a virtual meeting with presidents of the all island craft traders association headed by Mellody Haughton, was told that promised assistance under the COVID-19 relief programme has still not materialized three months into the crisis. In the meeting the craft vendors stated that as the markets have been closed for months, they have been left with no means to survive.
The craft vendors also claim that while some members were granted a three month moratorium on rents on their shops; this came to an end in May, but without an income and the slow reopening of the tourism sector, they are currently still unable to pay the rent and will need a further extension. The operators said their plight has been largely ignored by the government despite promises to help the sector.
“These are small operators who depend on selling in the craft market for a living. With the closure of the tourism sector, the craft industry is directly affected. The same waivers and grants that have been given to some, should be extended to all. Craft vendors need to know if they will still benefit from the grants offered to other businesses.” Dr. Phillips said.
The Opposition leader said the craft vendors are caught in an untenable situation as they cannot be asked to meet the costs to provide hand sanitizers, thermometers, etc. while they are without an income.
He pointed out that there is general disregard and disrespect for the ordinary Jamaicans by the government, and this is evident among those in the entertainment sector, craft artisans, raft captains, the transport sector, vendors and other small business operators.
The Opposition is calling on the government to:
1. Pay the COVID grants promised to the vendors now
2. Assist the craft traders to resume operations including training and financing the necessary COVID requirements to facilitate same.
3. Extend the waiver of rental fees for the craft traders for an additional three months.
The Shadow Minister of Tourism said he will continue to meet with and advocate for the vendors to ensure that they can access the necessary support to resume their operations.
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