The $10,000 in vouchers government will give to Hurricane Dorian victims under its newly released Small Home Repair Programme would “not necessarily” be sufficient for victims to recover, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Carl Smith said yesterday.
However, he said that the repair program is a “phased process” and that despite the challenges faced by the ministry, he is “satisfied” with the work they have been doing.
“Persons will be able to go in, get assistance – there’s a criteria for qualifications – and there’s assistance up to the tune of $10,000 in tranches providing labor and materials to the affected persons,” Smith said on the Guardian Radio 96.9 show “Morning Blend” with host Dwight Strachan.
“Now, that does not mean that persons who would have already received assistance would not qualify because, for example, if your entire house was damaged – not totally destroyed, so you would have lost all the appliances and all that kind of stuff – $10,000 would not necessarily bring you back to where you wish to be, or need to be.
“So, it’s a phased process, given the magnitude of the disaster which we faced, and let’s be up front, the challenges were enormous.
“There continues to be some challenges ranging from removal of debris, and let’s bear in mind also that we want to build back better so we have to look at the building code and review the building code, so there are a multiplicity of things that are going on simultaneously.
“We’re trying to meet immediate needs to get people as comfortable as possible and then move forward.”
He added, “So, yes, there are some challenges [but] I am satisfied, from where I sit, we are making progress every day.”
The Small Home Repair Programme was officially launched on Grand Bahama yesterday, and is set to launch on Abaco on February 17.
It outlines that storm victims whose homes were destroyed will be eligible to receive varying values of vouchers based on the extent of the damage, and also given that they were uninsured and meet the authority’s “basic criteria”, which include immigration status and ownership of the property.
Smith said yesterday that the ministry hopes that repairs to homes will be completed within nine months of the storm’s passing, noting that February already marks month five.
“So, yes, as an individual I may be facing some serious challenges, and when I would have lost my home and you’re saying to me, ‘Well I’m coming soon, I’m coming soon,’ well it’s five months, and so it’s a phased process,” Smith said.
He added, “With respect to housing, which is a critical need, we’re hoping in the next – because it’s already 5 months – within nine months, that people’s houses will be repaired and reconstructed.”
However, he said the timeframe for debris cleanup is anticipated to be as long as several years.
“In terms of the debris recovery removal, that’s a longer period of time because what we’re looking at, in addition to just moving the debris, sorting the debris, there needs to be new landfills created and managed properly, so that’s several years; it looks like three years – it is years, yes, to do it properly,” Smith said.
Government has faced criticism relating to the recovery process on Abaco and Grand Bahama, which were devastated by Dorian in September.
Some storm victims have expressed feeling abandoned by government.
Asked yesterday how he could reconcile feeling “satisfied” with his ministry’s work in light of such comments, Smith said he believes the discrepancy is due to people not being aware of what government is doing.
He said the ministry would be making an attempt to engage with storm victims more in an effort to counteract that.
“Well, part of it is sharing information and, you know, in today’s world, we have social media, and unfortunately, very often what goes on social media is inaccurate,” Smith said.
“So, that is a challenge that we face and we recognize that, and…you would see a tremendous beefing up in terms of engaging the public as to what’s going on, how they can be involved moving forward.”
He added, “We continue to get assistance from the international communities, from NGOs, much of which the general public [doesn’t] hear, and part of what my ministry wants to do is appear on shows such as this on a regular basis, updating persons on what’s going around.”
As Smith insisted the ministry has a plan, he also said: “Disaster preparedness and response require a collaborative effort, from planning and responding to it, and in this, case rebuilding back. But, in all of that, I’m satisfied that we’re making reasonable progress.”