FREEPORT, Grand Bahama – The Government’s Small Home Repair Programme, through which Bahamian homeowners in Hurricane Dorian-impacted areas could receive thousands of dollars in vouchers, will launch on February 10.
Katherine Forbes-Smith, Managing Director of the Bahamas Disaster Reconstruction Authority, made the announcement Thursday, January 30 at a town hall meeting for the East Grand Bahama District at the Bahamas Union of Teachers Hall in Freeport.
There will be four categories for which vouchers will be granted. Residents whose homes were assessed with minimal damage will be eligible for $2,500 in vouchers; those with medium damage will be eligible for $5,000 in vouchers; those with major damage will be eligible for $7,500 in vouchers; and those whose homes were destroyed will be eligible for $10,000 in vouchers.
Those who receive vouchers will be able to use them for home improvement materials, labour or a combination of both.
There will be online registration for the programme. There will also be in-person, sign-up locations for those unable to register online.
In Grand Bahama the in-person registration site will be at the Small Home Repair Programme office at the Office of the Prime Minister. In Abaco it will be at the administration complex in Marsh Harbour.
To qualify for the programme a person needs to be Bahamian; to own the property in question; there must be proof of residence at August 31, 2019; and the property would need to have been uninsured.
Under the programme, tradesmen used for repairs would have to be approved. Materials purchased with vouchers would have to be from approved vendors in The Bahamas.
“We have to keep the money in the country,” said Mrs. Forbes-Smith. “We need to support the small businesses so they can keep people employed.”
The Authority will disburse 50 percent of the voucher first. An inspector will then check and ensure the voucher was spent on the home. Once that is verified the remaining 50 percent would be disbursed.
The Authority has also partnered with various NGOs in Dorian-impacted communities. Through the partnerships the Government pays for home repair labour and the NGOs provide supplies and various types of logistical and technical assistance.
Peter Turnquest, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and East Grand Bahama MP, pledged the Government’s commitment to assisting those affected by Dorian.
Noting that repairs are ongoing, Mr. Turnquest said the Government allocated $3 million for renovations to Rand Memorial Hospital in the supplemental budget it presented Wednesday to the House of Assembly. The Rand was damaged by Dorian.
Also in the supplemental budget, he said, was funding to extend unemployment benefits from 13 weeks to 26 weeks.
Mr. Turnquest said: “And that is to ensure that those persons who would have lost their income as a result of the damages done to businesses, and those that may have closed, those who were laid off for lack of business, that there is some social support for those families while they transition to other opportunities or their place of employment comes back on stream.”
The Authority will continue hosting town hall meetings in communities affected by Hurricane Dorian over the next few weeks.
Hurricane Dorian hit Abaco and Grand Bahama in September. With maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, Dorian was the strongest storm to hit The Bahamas.