NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The government will issue vouchers to displaced Dorian victims to cover costs for materials and labor based on the level of damages sustained, according to Minister of State for Disaster Management Iram Lewis.
Lewis, who made the comment while appearing as a guest on Beyond the Headlines with Clint Watson on Wednesday, noted that the government will seed the Bahamas National Recovery and Reconstruction Trust Fund with $10 million to cover persons in four categories.
He explained that those with minor damage would receive $2,500; those with moderate damage would receive $5,000; those with major damage would receive $7,500; and those whose homes were destroyed would qualify for $10,000.
Lewis added that in some instances people with major damage could also qualify for the $10,00 if it can be justified.
“What we have learned in the past was that sometimes you have to protect people from themselves,” he continued.
“What we did in the past and that was the easy way out. We did assessments and we issued personal checks in people’s names to go and hire their own contractors and buy their own material.
“The nature of human beings, if you have just come out of a traumatic situation and you have some money lying around on your account, you may want to take your family on vacation, you may want to do some things that you figure is in the best interest of your family, you just need a break, you just need to decompress; and before you know it, the money that you were given is gone.
“So what we have done this time is we have identified suppliers who would supply materials.
“We have identified qualified contractors.
“The trust right now is putting in process a voucher system, where we will make a deposit to the various construction companies, supply companies.”
Lewis said once a determination is made on how much funds will be allocated to a particular person, they will receive a voucher and the funds will be given to the appropriate company.
The vouchers can then be cashed in at those designated suppliers and contractors.
“It protects the person against themselves and there is more accountability,” Lewis said.
“In that way we can better account for how the people money was spent.”
He added that even though the trust has a cap, there is room for individuals to seek additional assistance and reapply to the trust.
“Every person was initially assessed as having damage in the neighborhood of 2,500,” Lewis said.
“[But] during the course of construction some unknowns pop up. They can come back to the trust and reapply.”
In October, Minster of Public Works Desmond Bannister revealed that it will take $12.1 million to repair the structural damage sustained to both Abaco and Grand Bahama during the passage of Hurricane Dorian.
The cost includes assessments for buildings on the two storm ravaged islands where there was significant damage to commercial buildings, mixed-used buildings, and public buildings.
Of that cost, $3.6 million is needed for buildings that were destroyed and cannot be salvaged and over $3 million is needed for buildings that were severely damaged.
Bannister said 1,183 were assessments done for buildings that received minimal damage, and another 508 assessments for buildings with moderate damage.
Lewis noted on Wednesday that in the aftermath of the storm assessments were conducted by the National Emergency Management Agency, Ministry of Works, Minister of Social Services and the Grand Bahama Port Authority.
He underscored the importance of those Bahamians impacted registering with the relevant agencies so that they can be assisted.
“We are pleading to you, if you are in a position where no one came to your house to do any form of assessment, contact those agencies and they will send someone out there they will deploy a team to your home to ensure you get a proper assessment.,” Lewis said.
“If we missed you, and you didn’t call us in, then there’s no way we can help you.”
He added: “The process is taking long in some instance but we want to do this right. We don’t want to do a quick fix and in the end it blow up in our face.”