VOUCHERS to assist victims of Hurricane Matthew in securing building materials to repair their storm-damaged homes will be issued by the end of this week, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Director Captain Stephen Russell said yesterday.
Capt Russell told The Tribune that NEMA would start issuing the vouchers this week “to persons whose homes would have been assessed and they only require material assistance.”
He said NEMA has identified “some local stores” in New Providence willing to participate in the home repair programme, aside from three establishments on Andros that have expressed an interest in the initiative.
Capt Russell also said NEMA will commence its home “repair and reconstruction” phase, which will see the agency assist hurricane victims in providing building materials as well as labour, towards the end of this month.
Last week, Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson, the government’s Hurricane Matthew czar, said following conversations with the Ministry of Finance, it was determined that vouchers would be utilised for the Hurricane Matthew repair programme on New Providence, Grand Bahama, and North Andros.
At the time, Mr Gibson said the vouchers would be colour coordinated by island in denominations of $100, $300 and $1,000 and redeemable at approved establishments that have agreed to participate in the programme. Mr Gibson also said at the time that three establishments on North Andros and two in Central Andros had expressed an interest in redeeming vouchers for the repair programme.
“We’re now getting ready to go into relief assistance in terms of materials probably by the end of this week,” Capt Russell said. “And if not (yesterday) then (today), definitely by the end of this week we’re going to issue vouchers to persons whose homes would have been assessed and they only require material assistance.
“So we’ve established some local stores here in New Providence who will take part in our coupon and voucher programmes where we’re going to issue vouchers or coupons to persons where they can go to various hardware stores to secure materials to carry out their repairs. And then we go on to another phase, repair and reconstruction where persons who need materials and labour assistance. That’s another phase we’re going to go into well into the end of this month.”
Capt Russell made his statements on the heels of a $50,000 donation by Sun Oil Limited, a subsidiary of Freeport Oil Company Limited (FOCOL), to NEMA to assist with hurricane relief efforts in Grand Bahama. Yesterday’s donation came just weeks after FOCOL donated a $100,000 to the government to aid in restoration efforts.
As such, Capt Russell said the donation is proof that FOCOL and Sun Oil Ltd are both “tremendous corporate partners.”
“…What they’re doing here, is showing something in a tangible way for persons who would have been impacted,” he said. “That speaks volumes about that organisation. We need quite a bit of funds, there’s quite a bit of work to be done. We getting some figures from Grand Bahama, almost 1,000 homes or more received major damage, probably another 700 that received minor damage, we almost have to rebuild almost 100 homes in Grand Bahama. Those are some of the preliminary figures that are coming in now.
“Similarly in Andros we probably need to rebuild over 50 homes, I’m quite sure probably another 100 homes need major, major repairs. That’s going to be a costly venture. So whatever funds we can get from corporate Bahamas, private citizens, friends of the Bahamas, to assist us in our efforts of generating funds to assist with our repairs and reconstruction programme are most certainly welcomed. And so what FOCOL is doing is a fantastic effort on behalf of a successful company, I should say.”
Last week, Mr Gibson said the government had received applications - collectively adding up to $1.4 million in relief requests - submitted by persons seeking to utilise the exigency order declared in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.
Mr Gibson said at the time that NEMA had processed some 77 applications, with a total dollar value of $1,338,452.92. The applications were over $10,000 each, Mr Gibson said.
Of that number, Mr Gibson said $1,226,152.61 were applications for household furniture and building supplies; $74,856 were applications for vessels and machinery equipment, and $37,444.31 were applications on behalf of “charitable organisations.”
The 180-day exigency order, declared effective from October 7, allows residents affected by the storm to import certain items into the country duty and tax-free. It only covers New Providence, Grand Bahama, the Berry Islands and North and Central Andros.