April 14, 2021
DISASTER Reconstruction Authority officials say they are working "aggressively" to assist homeowners in Abaco and Grand Bahama who have not yet received help from the agency to continue their post-Dorian home repairs.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe said the agency has assisted more than 4,500 homeowners since its Small Homes Repair programme was launched last February.
“Well, we have more than 3,000 plus persons who have already been approved (for the programme),” she said before going to a Cabinet meeting. “Some 1,000 plus remain in the system and the funding will also go towards them to assist. At the end of the day, we would’ve assisted more than 4,500 people who would’ve been devastated both on Grand Bahama and Abaco.
“The specifics the DRA officials have and it’s something we’re getting to at the ministry but we’re satisfied in the fact that there’s a system in place and people are getting help as with any situation and the hurricane being what it was, there’s a lot of work to be done.”
The housing repair programme was suspended last September due to funding restraints, but resumed this February after the DRA was able to secure a good portion of the funding needed to complete the relief initiative.
In recent weeks, some approved homeowners have expressed frustration over the slow process, saying they have yet to receive word from the agency as to when they will receive the needed vouchers.
Yesterday, Mrs Parker-Edgecombe acknowledged the complaints as "legitimate concerns" and said officials are working feverishly to address the issues.
She also said while the DRA would like to assist affected individuals as fast as possible, they must also do their due diligence to ensure the process is transparent.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say that there were some concerns expressed about the efficiency of our programme and whether or not we were reaching people as quickly as we should,” she said.
“The fact of the matter is the many people have to be assisted to date but there are those who feel that they haven’t been helped quick enough. We are addressing this aggressively. We have individuals on the ground right now that are going home to home and finding out what those concerns are.
“Our hurricane season is only weeks away. May would be hurricane preparedness month and NEMA officials as well as those of the DRA are working feverishly together to ensure that this hurricane season and those persons who would want to know information has it and that we are prepared going into the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season.”
She added: “…There’s a lot of checks and balances. While we want to assist individuals, we also want to ensure that there aren’t any persons taking advantage of the system. We have to be accountable with the government’s funds as well as we have to assist those who were hurt and devastated by that hurricane and so that would’ve been one of the main issues that we would’ve gotten from the ground that they were approved and they just needed the help in getting the vouchers that they were approved for.”
To date, more than 2,500 homeowners are currently being assisted in Grand Bahama and Abaco since the Small Homes Repair programme resumed earlier this year, a DRA official reported last week.
According to Wendell Grant, project director of DRA, funds amounting to some $2.7 million have been expended so far for home repairs.
He also indicated that DRA is dealing with homeowners, according to the three categories they fall under.
The first group includes those who were approved, have already benefited and were provided purchase orders for materials or labour.
“We are finishing off that group of people,” Mr Grant said last week. “We are pushing through the first set of people.”
Next up will be those registrants who received purchase orders to get materials, but did not get the materials before the programme was suspended.
Meanwhile, the third and final group are those who have been approved for assistance but did not receive purchase orders.
“We are satisfied that there is a system in place and people are getting help,” Mrs Parker-Edgecombe said.
“The hurricane being what it was, there's a lot of work to be done. We're not going to deny that but we are here to help and we are going to ensure that those persons who were devastated were given that help and at the end of the day, we want persons back in their homes."
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News date : 04/14/2021
Category : Hurricane, About Bahamians, Politics, Tribune Stories