While Belize and the rest of the world at large continue to battle with the crippling effects of COVID-19, unemployment has quickly risen to crisis status in the country. The tourism sector was forecasted to bear the heaviest loss, as Belize entered a State of Emergency on March 23, 2020, and our borders and ports were closed off.
As early as March 25, the UDP’s “Economic Czar,” Dr. Carla Barnett, said at a press conference that more than 80% of all hotel staff in Belize and 100% of all tour operators would be without work. This alone would amount to nearly 14,000 Belizeans being jobless, not to mention those who work at the free zones and in the agricultural sector, which provides food to hotels and resorts across the country.
The impact of unemployment, however, has not been restricted to hospitality workers. Through the COVID-19 Unemployment Relief Program, which was closed to new applications within a month, over 80,000 Belizeans applied for financial assistance to alleviate the effects of unemployment. The online application portal had to be closed by the end of April due to the government’s inability to accommodate the growing number of applicants.
By now, it is clear that far more than 80,000 Belizeans are reeling from the effects of job loss in the country, as the economy continues to plummet and funds continue to be depleted. On Monday, another 200-plus Belizeans working closely with the tourism sector were confronted with the prospect of unemployment when Tropic Air announced that it would be letting go 60% of its staff by the end of the month.