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Bill guards tenants, job losers against pandemic effects

NEWS
By Rawlings Otieno | April 15th 2020

Senate Committee on Covid-19 chairman Johnson Sakaja at a media briefing last week. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Kenyans hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic will be exempted from paying rent, servicing bank loans and their utility bills shall be waived, a Bill before the Senate proposes. 

The Pandemic Response and Management Bill, 2020, also proposes that Kenyans should not be laid off or coerced to take pay cuts by their employers. And those doing businesses will not be mandated to pay for trade licences and land rates. 

Provide mechanism

The Senate Bill sponsored by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, who is the chairman of the Senate special committee on Covid-19, also seeks to provide measures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and provide a mechanism to cushion those that may be adversely affected.

“The principal object of this Bill is to provide a framework for the effective response to and management of a pandemic in order to prevent the occurrence or spread of a pandemic whenever it arises,” said Sakaja.

The Bill also provides that tenants who may not be able to meet their contractual obligations, shall give notice, in writing, to their landlords or contracting party that they are not able to pay rent because of the pandemic.

“Upon receipt of a notice, the contracting parties shall enter into an agreement on how the tenant shall meet their obligation at the end of the pandemic,” the Bill reads in part.

Housing Cabinet secretary, with the approval of Parliament, shall provide measures to cushion landlords and tenants.

The Bill further states that where the public is not able to service their loans and mortgages because of the crisis, individual borrower shall notify and enter into an agreement with the lending institution on repayment after the pandemic.

Penalties shall not be imposed and the defaulter shall not be listed by the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) during the period.

“A lending financial institution shall not charge fees, interest or any other penalty for nonpayment or late payment of obligations during the pandemic period,” it states.

The proposed law states that where a contract was entered into before the declaration of a pandemic and the pandemic affects the performance of a contractual obligation, commencement of levying of execution; enforcement of security over movable and immovable property used for the purpose of a trade, business or profession; repossession of any goods used for the purpose of a trade, business or profession or termination of lease or licence shall be prohibited.

It states that employers shall not terminate a contract of service or dismiss or coerce an employee to take a salary cut.

“Despite subsection (1), where an employer is unable to meet his obligations to pay salaries or wages, the employer shall permit an employee to take leave of absence without pay for the duration of the pandemic,” it says.

The Labour Cabinet secretary shall develop measures to protect the employer and the employee during the pandemic.

According to the draft Bill, the government may also waive water and electricity charges for identified vulnerable persons and households or adjust tariff rates to reduce utility charges to individuals and businesses, and that there shall be no disconnection for nonpayment of utility bills.

The Bill also seeks to cushion vulnerable Kenyans whose works have been disrupted.

“During this period, national and county governments shall put in place social safety schemes designed to support vulnerable persons, households and informal sector workers whose incomes have been disrupted. The schemes include unconditional cash transfers to support the identified groups to meet their daily basic necessities,” the Bill reads in part.

According to the Bill, the President may declare, in a Gazette Notice, a pandemic upon receipt of a recommendation from CS in charge of Health Services.

The President shall then establish a National Pandemic Response Committee, to among other things, co-ordinate the country’s response and management to the threat caused by the pandemic.

The committee shall consist of Health CS who shall be the chairperson; Treasury PS and other Cabinet and principal secretaries as the President shall consider necessary.

Others are the chairperson of the Council of Governors or such other governor as the chairperson shall designate in writing and public officers, not exceeding three as the President shall consider necessary.

Status reports

The committee shall during the period of the pandemic, prepare and submit to Parliament bi-weekly status reports providing.

The Bill provides that where a pandemic affects the economic or purchase power of the public, the Treasury Cabinet secretary shall, with the approval of Parliament, introduce tax measures to cushion the affected for the duration the period.

Covid 19 Time Series

 

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