By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis officially launched the Small Homes Repair Programme in Grand Bahama to help residents rebuild their homes destroyed five months ago by Hurricane Dorian. He said the programme will be implemented in Abaco on February 17, and in New Providence on February 24.
Dr Minnis said there are four categories of purchase orders that will be granted, ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 grants depending on the degree of damage.
He urged recipients to support approved businesses in The Bahamas, instead of spending it abroad in Florida.
“This is important. We want to keep the money spent on this programme in the country. That will help Bahamian businesses,” he said.
“We also want to make sure the money spent is used for home repair,” Dr Minnis said.
The prime minister stated that if residents in Grand Bahama cannot find what they need in Freeport, they can always go to New Providence and spend with businesses there.
The in-person sign-up location for the programme is located at the Office of the Prime Minister in the Harold DeGregory Government Complex in Freeport. However, the prime minister is encouraging persons to go online at www.drabahamas.org to register.
In Abaco, residents may register at the Government Complex, and in New Providence, persons may register at the NEMA on Gladstone Road.
During yesterday’s opening ceremony, Dr Minnis said that residents whose homes were assessed with minimal damage will be eligible for $2,500 in purchase orders.
Purchase orders in the amount of $5,000 and $7,500 would be eligible to persons with medium damage, and major damage, respectively.
Dr Minnis stated that purchase orders in the amount of $10,000 would be eligible to persons whose homes were destroyed.
He noted that recipients will be able to use the funds for home improvement materials, labour, or a combination of both.
“As a government, we understand that many Bahamians in the disaster zones have had great financial pressures placed on them. It has been difficult for many to find the funds necessary to make repairs to their homes,” Dr Minnis said.
The prime minister noted that persons must meet certain criteria to qualify for the programme.
A person needs to be Bahamian, own the property in question, and there must be proof of residence as of August 31, 2019. The property would need to have been uninsured, and the property has to be in Grand Bahama, Abaco, and the cays.
Under the programme, he said, tradesmen contracted for repairs will need to be approved, and material purchased with purchase orders will have to be from approved vendors in the Bahamas.
In order to make sure money is used for home repairs, Dr Minnis said the Disaster Reconstruction Authority will disburse 50 percent of the purchase orders first to qualifying applicants.
“An inspector will check and ensure that the purchase order was spent on the home. Once that is confirmed the remaining 50 percent will be disbursed,” he stated.
Dr Minnis explained that the DRA has also partnered with various NGOs in communities affected by Dorian.
Through the partnerships, he said the government pays for home repair labour, and the NGOs provide supplies and various types of logistical and technical assistance.
“Those initiatives will continue in conjunction with this new Small Home Repair Programme. We thank the NGOs that are assisting for their generosity and kindness to Bahamians in need,” he said.
In terms of hurricane restoration, Dr Minnis said his government continues to work hard in restoring disaster zones in the northern Bahamas.
He noted that Hurricane Dorian brought historic destruction and was the strongest to hit the chain of islands. Full recovery for the islands affected, he said, will take a long time.
Dr Minnis noted that high surge destroyed homes and businesses, and lives were lost.
Dorian was the second strongest hurricane by wind speed recorded in the Atlantic. Its power was immense; its destruction was widespread.
“It will take years for us to fully recover,” he said.
“Government pledges its full support along each step of the way to restoration. We came to government to help people. This Small Homes Repair Programme is directed at helping Bahamian people get their homes back to normalcy,” he said. “We are a resilient people. Together we will build back better and stronger.”