• Bill wants Kenyans hit hard by Covid-19 exempted from paying rent, servicing bank loans and their utility bills waived during the period.
• They will also not be laid or coerced to take a pay cut by their employers.
Kenyans hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic will be exempted from paying rent, servicing bank loans and their utility bills waived during the period if a new Senate Bill is enacted
They will also not be laid off or coerced to take a pay cut by their employers, proposes the Pandemic Response and Management Bill, 2020.
Those doing businesses will not be mandated to pay trade licenses and land rates, the Bill notes.
The Bill is drafted by the seven-member Senate ad hoc committee on Covid-19 and sponsored by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja who chairs the panel.
The committee was formed to oversight the National Emergency Response Committee on Covid 19 and propose policy and legislative measures to cushion Kenyans against the health and economic effects of the pandemic.
“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,” Sakaja said.
It also seeks to provide measures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and provide a mechanism to cushion those who may be adversely affected by it.
The proposed law provides that where a pandemic affects the economic or purchasing power of the public, Treasury Cabinet Secretary may, with the approval of Parliament, introduce tax measures to cushion the affected persons for the duration.
For tenants who may not be able to meet their contractual obligations, the Bill states they shall give notice — in writing — to their landlords or contracting party stating that they are not able to pay rent because of the pandemic.
“Upon receipt of the 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 approval of Parliament, shall provide measures to cushion landlords and tenants.
The Bill further states that where citizens are not able to service their loans and mortgages, the individual borrower shall notify and enter into an agreement with the lending institution on how to make the payments after 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 pandemicBill
Penalties shall not be imposed and the defaulter shall not be listed by the Credit Reference Bureau 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.
And where a contract was entered into before the declaration of a pandemic and it affects the performance of a contractual obligation, commencement of levying of execution or auctioning of their property shall be prohibited.
For employers, the Bill states that they 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.
Labour Cabinet Secretary shall develop measures to protect the employer and the employee during the pandemic.
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 identified groups to meet their daily basic necessities
The governments 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.
There shall be no disconnection for non-payment of utility bills.
County governments may suspend fees payable on the renewal of trade licenses and payment of property rates during the pandemic.
The Bill, however, states that a person who knowingly makes a claim they know or has reason to believe to be false — for the purpose of obtaining any relief —commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both.
According to the Bill, the President shall declare, in a gazette notice, a pandemic upon receipt of a recommendation from the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Health.
The head of state shall then establish a National Pandemic Response Committee to, among other things, coordinate 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 to the Council of Governors or such other governor as the chairperson shall designate in writing and such other public officers, not exceeding three as the President shall consider necessary.
The committee shall during the period of the pandemic prepare and submit to Parliament bi-weekly status reports providing.
The reports shall detail the rate of infection of the disease within the country, measures taken to mitigate the pandemic and challenges faced in the mitigation efforts.
Within one month after the declaration of the end of a pandemic, the committee shall prepare and submit to Parliament its final report on its activities.
The same shall apply to the counties, where governors shall be required to form county emergency response teams that report to the county assemblies.
A Pandemic Response Fund shall also be established to, among other things, mobilise resources to contain the spread and impact of the pandemic.
The fund shall get resources from monies appropriated by the National Assembly, grants, donations or gifts made to the fund and monies received from any other source approved by the Cabinet Secretary.
Treasury PS shall be the administrator of the fund.
Should a person entrusted with the management of money or goods meant for providing relief during a pandemic misappropriates it, they shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding Sh10 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.