By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Family Island administrators yesterday praised the government for allocating $1.8m to their islands in a bid to equip them with the necessary medical resources to combat COVID-19.
Desiree Ferguson, Long Island’s administrator, told Tribune Business: “Usually when disasters occur they would allocate funds for us to use for whatever purpose, and this is one of the disasters that is happening. We usually have it on hand in case if anything happens. We can have it available to deal with any challenges that we face until we get more assistance from disaster management.
“Sometimes we would not use the funds. Take, for example, with Hurricane Dorian. The hurricane didn’t impact our island, so there was no need to use those funds. But in the event now we have it here, and it would reduce the need for having to call back to New Providence if we need funds to do certain things.”
Ms Ferguson added of the funding: “It would help the strain on the island, and everybody will be taken care of until further help comes on the way. So far everything is well in Long Island. We have no cases reported and everybody is following the curfew. We are just waiting on further instruction for when they lock down for good - how it will work - but so far no one has been reported for curfew violations and everybody is obeying that.”
K Peter Turnquest, deputy prime minister, told the House of Assembly on Monday that the government is allocating $1.8m to support the Family Islands. The funds are to be specifically used for any COVID-19 related expenditure.
He explained that the allocation was in keeping with the government’s commitment to reprioritise existing resources, and to provide support to keep communities safe. “The allocations for the different islands range from $10,000 to $325,000. The average allocation is approximately $76,000,” Mr Turnquest said.
“Strict financial management protocols have been put in place to administer the use of these funds. Under no circumstances are the COVID-19 emergency order budgetary allocations allowed to be utilised for the normal, routine Family Island local and central government expenditures.
“This allocation will enable them to procure any COVID-19 related item, in line with the Ministry of Health’s guidance and protocols, to manage this pandemic at the community level. Unused amounts at the end of the COVID-19 emergency period are to be returned to the Treasury Department.”
Mr Turnquest added: “I am advising the House of these allocations to the various Family Island districts to give assurance to all Bahamians across the country that every Family Island community has in its possession the resources on hand to address any immediate need that may arise as we continue to navigate this pandemic.
“All our communities across the country can be assured as well that additional allocations will be made available immediately upon need should the occasion so arise.”
Donald Rolle, island administrator for Moore’s Island off Abaco, said of the funding: “We didn’t have anything at all, but I think it is much needed. I think that should be able to help us to prepare ourselves, and protect our citizens and our residents from the coronavirus.”
Explaining how the funds would likely be used, Mr Rolle added: “We as a committee have to meet. I think we have to look at one or two places in South Abaco and Moore’s island that we will use to quarantine if the need arises, and if anybody is positively infected by the coronavirus.
“We will look at buying the necessary supplies, and to make sure that our medical supplies and disinfectant supplies are available for our senior citizens and our clinics in South Abaco and Moore’s Island.”
“We are thankful for the government, and the thoughts of the deputy prime minister that we can work together. We can’t do anything without finances. We have been looking forward to this for quite a long time.”
Gregory Knowles, Eleuthera’s island administrator, said of the funding provided by Mr Turnquest: “He indicated what it ought to be used for. The thing about it is that once the deputy prime minister indicated what it should be used for, then that’s what it will be used for. We can’t use it for anything else. If he said use it for the COVID-19 then we have to use it for the COVID-19. Anything else would be a violation.”