By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
AFTER several months of being suspended, the Disaster Reconstruction Authority has officially resumed its Small Homes Repair programme, with officials targeting June 30 to complete work for the “first tranche” of those homeowners who were promised help.
Speaking to The Tribune yesterday, Katherine Forbes-Smith, DRA managing director, described the news as “exciting” and said it now allows the agency to go “full speed” ahead towards completing the programme.
The plan was suspended in September after the suppliers did not receive payments from the time the initiative was launched last February to assist with the repair of homes destroyed by Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
However, the repair programme was given the green light to resume after the agency was able to secure a good portion of the funding needed to complete the relief initiative, estimated at some $13 million.
And, according to Mrs Forbes-Smith, some $8 million has already been allocated by the government for the continuation of the programme, which will allow the DRA to fulfil its obligations to over 2,000 storm victims.
However, she said the agency still needs about $5 million to assist the remainder of the approved applicants and is currently working to secure partnerships and raise additional funds to that effect.
“The programme resumed two weeks ago,” she said. “The government has extended the programme by making a commitment of a further $8 plus million to the programme and it is going well.
“We at the moment have approved 3,735 homeowners. We are active and will be able to complete 2,645 homeowners. That leaves a balance of 1,090 homeowners so that is where we need additional funding for and that additional funding will be about $5 million.
“Now, having said that, we are also talking to a number of donors who are interested in assisting the DRA with the small home repair programme…and we’re having those discussions as we speak.”
Yesterday, Mrs Forbes-Smith said the agency has established priority groups and will first honour its commitments to those approved registrants who have already received a portion or half of the funding from the DRA before the programme was suspended.
“When we resumed the programme, our focus was we need to be able to complete those persons who have started. So right now, all of the persons who received at least 50 percent or some money towards their home, we felt that it was obviously more beneficial to complete those persons. So, you don’t want to start a project with someone and not complete it so that’s what we’re doing.
“In Abaco, we’re working with just over 600 people. In Grand Bahama, the number is just over 1,500 so what you’re going to find is before the programme (was) suspended in September of last year, there were about 1,200 people who completed the programme 100 percent.”
Next up will be those registrants who have been approved by the DRA but have yet to receive any help from the agency since the initiative was launched.
Mrs Forbes-Smith issued a plea for applicants to have their necessary paperwork in order to speed up the process.
She told this newspaper: “By June 30, we want to be able to complete the work of the 2,645 homeowners. We want everyone to come in and get their purchase orders so that’s what we would like to see happen.”
As a temporary housing solution, the National Emergency Management Agency budgeted $6.4m for temporary domes, with an estimated $4m committed to cost.
Speaking about the project, the DRA managing director said: “The domes were a part of the family relief centre, a project that was started by NEMA. The only thing that the DRA is doing is we are completing the erection and installation of the 209 domes for the benefit of the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
“The total amount of domes was about 209, I think; 169 is all of them are currently all over Abaco and an additional 40 will be erected in East Grand Bahama. That’s it. There are no more domes. We are just completing what was started.”
She also said the work of the DRA on storm impacted islands will continue, adding that its operations have not been impacted by the new appointment of Iram Lewis, former Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, to the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture.
“The way the authority works is we have a board and we have a chairman and so really, if you refer to the Act of the DRA, you will see that full operation of the authority really is guided by the chairman and the board of directors, so nothing has changed in that regard, “ she said.
A comprehensive report detailing the agency’s full expenditure has been completed and will be ready next week.