NASSAU, BAHAMAS – An influx of registrants to the government’s Dorian Small Home Repair Programme has led to a delay of residents receiving supplies and vendors being paid, according to Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis yesterday.
“There was an influx,” Lewis told reporters outside Cabinet.
“We expected x amount. Everyone is coming for support and we are trying to support as much as possible. In fact, we are trying to support everybody who has a legitimate claim. We are not trying to deny.”
In February, the DRA launched its Small Home Repair Programme, which would allow Bahamians impacted by Hurricane Dorian to access up to $10,000 in funds for repairs.
Lewis said the program is approaching nearly 5,000 registrants.
“It’s been very taxing,” he continued, “but understanding the importance of it, as a responsible government, we will do our best to not only clean up our communities but do our best to ensure that persons are back in our homes.”
Lewis said: “We are looking for partners. The government doesn’t have all of the money, so you may know somebody who may help us out.”
He could not say if the claims would be processed by the end of the year.
Dorian struck Abaco and Grand Bahama on September 1-3, leveling communities with over 185 mile-per-hour winds.
The record Category 5 storm killed at least 74 people. Hundreds reportedly remain missing.
Marsh Harbour and Central Pines were hit the hardest in Abaco.
In Grand Bahama, High Rock, McLeans Town, and Sweetings Cay took on the brunt of the storm.
It is estimated that some 30,000 people and 9,000 homes were severely affected.
Lewis said while the government received over $1.5 billion in pledges for Dorian relief, it got only $364,000 in cash and deposits to date.
“So, there is a serious shortfall and on top of that, with the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of priorities shift for the persons who would have made pledges.
“We did not collect all that was pledged but we will do our best to accommodate Bahamians.”
The government made a commitment last year to deposit $10 million to jumpstart the SHR program and the balance was expected to come from pledges and from private donors who would have earmarked specifically for reconstruction.
Lewis said the pandemic has added to the challenge of the government’s $10 million commitment.
“There’s no way we can force anyone who made a pledge to give us their pledge but we are hopeful that those who pledged would honor their commitment and as the pledge come it we will use it in the community and I will be able to account for it as I have done in the past, how the funds were expended,” he said.