Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works, the Hon. Iram Lewis on Monday, March 12, 2018, asked that residents be responsible and ensure their homes, as the Hurricane Assistance Programme is a very costly one for the government. The programme, said Mr. Lewis, is a “give-away” as there is no way for the government to recover the funds, and urged residents to be responsible with their funds – fix their roofs. During a press conference, Mr. Lewis congratulated the staff at the Ministry of Works, as well as NEMA and Social Services for the job they have done so far with respect to the small roof repair programme. To date, more than 6,000 complaints were made since the last hurricane with respect to roof damages. They were able to assess over 1,000 of these to date, and there were about 550 people in full compliance in terms of meeting the requirements; to date, 125 of those received cheques on March 2, 2018. “We’ve been begging the residents to submit your paperwork to ensure that we have full accountability. To ensure that we do not experience fraud. To ensure that the person owns the house that we are giving the monies to repair. “We’ve asked those homeowners to bring in their conveyance, in the absence of their conveyance we’ve asked that they bring in a sworn affidavit just so that we can verify. We’ve asked that they bring in their passports, an official form of identification, to verify that they are who they say they are.”
With Hurricane season only a few months away, Mr. Lewis urged residents to get their paperwork in so that they may get the much-needed assistance. He added, “And we are urging those persons that once you would have received your cheque, to do the right thing. Fix your homes, make sure that they’re code compliant and by all means, ensure your homes.” With so many in need of assistance, the Parliamentary Secretary added, “Based on the numbers we’ve seen to date, there is no way that any government of The Bahamas would be able to sustain such a programme. These are monies that we’re spending that we can’t recover. We’re trying to protect our citizens, but we’re asking you to help us. Once you will have received these cheques, do the right thing and fix your homes.”
Officer in charge of the Ministry of Public Works in Grand Bahama, Mrs. Toni Hudson-Bannister, said she would like to bring clarity as many may not have fully understood that in order to receive assistance from the government, they must first be a citizen of The Bahamas, and you must be able to show proof of ownership of the home. People will receive assistance with priority given to people on the list who are elderly, disabled, unemployed, handicapped, and underemployed where people meet a minimum income. Tammi Mitchell of NEMA said that if you have not been contacted by the Ministry of Works or NEMA to bring in the necessary documentation, there is no need for you to come when the announcement of cheque distribution is announced. Also present was Island Administrator, Preston Cunningham who also urged residents to comply with bringing in the necessary documents.
Islands in the programme include Grand Bahama, Bimini, Abaco, and New Providence.