Pensioners still awaiting Social Security payments for both July and August are being assured that money will be forthcoming as soon as possible.
A statement issued by the Social Security Board (ABSSB) on Friday asked for “continued forbearance” from the scheme’s 11,000 pensioners during “these unprecedented times”.
It apologised for the delay, explaining that the “inconvenience” was not one it “took lightly”.
“The ABSSB is heavily dependent on current contributions to fund current benefit payments and operations.
“Further, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact economic activity which has implications for ABSSB operations.
“The months of July to November are generally slow contribution months and we are now in that slow period,” it explained.
“We do remain resolved in our commitment to meet all outstanding payments as funds become available,” it added.
But the notice incurred the wrath of UPP leader Harold Lovell who dubbed it “callous” and “insensitive” and claimed the nation’s most vulnerable people were being left to suffer.
It also triggered a stormy response when posted on ABSSB’s Facebook page.
“There are many of us who depend solely on our pension as this is the only source of income,” replied one Facebook user.
“We have commitments with the banks, we need to eat and take care of ourselves. It is not fair that some of us, including myself, are paid late every month.
“I got May’s payment in July and June’s payment in August and this method has been going on for months.”
Another social media user chided the board for what she claimed was a lack of planning.
“You mean to tell me that someone could not have considered diversification of investment? Your surplus (whenever that was) should have been invested with compound interest to deal with futuristic events like this one.
“We need to make decisions that will benefit all favourably,” she added.
Lovell called on the government to “fill the gap it has created”.
And he condemned the wording of the board’s statement for its failure to offer a date upon which pensioners could expect their money.
“These are among our most vulnerable citizens,” he said in a release issued yesterday. “Many of our seniors depend solely on their Social Security pensions to eat, buy medication, pay bills, or contribute to their children’s households.
“To pull the financial rug from under them in this fashion is unconscionable.”
Lovell, a former Finance Minister, claimed that senior citizens had never been “cut off in this fashion” before, even in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.
He said borrowed funds had previously helped shore up the Social Security Scheme.
Lovell called on Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who is also the current Finance Minister, to put other measures in place to help pensioners survive, such as expanding the PDV-CAB benefit card programme and increasing the value of APUA’s utility subsidy.
Social Security Director David Matthias declined to comment on Lovell’s statement.
But he previously told Observer that pensioners remained a priority. He told the Observer AM show that while pensions were “behind by a month, there are contributors who are behind by as many as six months”.
“Because we deem the pensioners to be at risk because they are dependent on Social Security income, we made every effort to prioritise them. That means there is someone else who is not in receipt of a benefit,” Matthias said.
The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Lionel Hurst also said last week that government was doing its best to bring payments up to date, urging those affected to exercise “prayer and patience”.