|Pensioners get NIB boost|
Guardian Business Reporter
Published: Jul 26, 2012
Nearly 30,000 pensioners have received a 4.6 percent increase in benefits implemented by the National Insurance Board this month, Guardian Business can confirm.
During his contribution in the House of Assembly yesterday, Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson revealed to parliamentarians that the increases were made to make the National Insurance Board (NIB) more relevant and viable.
The increases, which include a boost in the wage ceiling from $500 to $600, as well as increases in the retirement and funeral benefits and maternity grants, all took effect July 1.
“For retirement benefits, the minimum pension will be increased from $287 to $301 and for the old age non-contributory pension, the minimum will be increased from $245 to $256,” Gibson noted.
“Regular adjustments to the NIB pension ensure that the pensioners are able to maintain the same standard as the prices of goods and services increases. Funeral benefits will be increased from $1,600 to $1,680 and the maternity grant will be increased from $430 to $450.”
Gibson pointed out that every two years, NIB pensioners will receive an increase based on the cumulative rate of inflation experienced over the previous years. However, he noted there will be no further increases until 2014.
“Inflation in 2009 and 2010 were 1.4 percent and 3.2 percent respectively. And so the increases granted this year are a combined 4.6 percent. This is the rate by which the benefits of almost 30,000 pensioners were increased just last week,” he said.
Gibson said several changes were brought into effect at NIB this month. “The age at which persons will be able to receive their retirement benefits and earn any amount in wages was reduced from 70-65. Previously, persons over 60 but less than 70 who earned an income of more than half of the contribution ceiling were ineligible to receive retirement benefits,” according to the Labour and National Insurance minister.
“In the case of retirees who choose to delay applying for their pension award until after age 65, their award is now increased by seven percent for each year delayed. This counter balances the current regulation whereby we reduce the pension by seven percent for every year that the person claims prior to attaining age 65. If someone currently claims at age 60, for example, they lose 35 percent of their pension.”
He further noted that orphans can continue to receive a survivors benefit even if they are in school part-time. “The previous requirement was after age 16 and up to age 21, they had to be in school full-time.”
He also revealed that widows and widowers can now receive a survivors benefit if they were married for less than one year. “The requirement before was that they had to be married for at least one year. We removed the restriction that the sickness benefit could not be paid if sickness was the result of drug or alcohol abuse. The Invalidity benefit is also payable if invalidity was due to either of these causes.”
The Labour and National Insurance minister also confirmed that the period for claiming most of NIB’s benefits have been reduced from six to three months. This was done to ensure the timeliness of claims information.
“The sole exception is the funeral benefit which has changed from 12 months to six months. Paid vacation was not previously articulated in the unemployment benefits regulations, but now such payments will delay the start of the benefit. Basic wages now include productivity pay for certain classes of workers. This means better coverage of their regular earnings which will be included in the benefits now as well.”