By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
DISASTER Reconstruction Authority executive chairman Alex Storr said officials plan to start the first phase of the Small Home Repair Programme by early next month.
He said the first phase will consist of the DRA assessing the needs of storm impacted victims before the official relaunch of the programme.
“That’s one of the things we hope to restart shortly,” he told The Tribune yesterday. “The first phase will be re-assessments and we hope to have that started before the middle of next month. We want to assess the level of assistance people need and make sure it is still needed, or in some cases, they may need more assistance, so we want to do re-assessments before we actually re-start the programme.”
The housing repair programme was launched by the Minnis administration in February 2020 to help residents in Abaco and Grand Bahama repair their storm ravaged homes following the passage of Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
The initiative allowed for vouchers to be dispersed to victims to purchase building materials and other items related to home restoration.
Yesterday, Mr Storr was unable to say whether the DRA will still hand out vouchers as a means to provide assistance as was done in the past.
“We are still finalising how we can do that because we want to do something different to make sure that we’re more effective and that people who actually need help will receive it so we’re going to slightly revamp how it was done in the past but we will make an announcement about that closer to the time,” the DRA official said.
In late March, Minister of State Myles Laroda, who has responsibility for the DRA, revealed that over 1,000 homeowners were still waiting to receive funding approval from the agency to continue their post-Dorian home repairs.
At the time, Mr Laroda said he planned to seek approval from Cabinet, adding” I expect that to be done pretty shortly.”
In the meantime, the DRA is still working to find alternative housing for Abaco residents who are still living in the domes.
Yesterday, Mr Storr said the agency was hoping to have dome dwellers transitioned into more permanent suitable homes before the end of the summer.
“No definite date has been given yet,” he added. “We are still in talks with the various agencies to see how best we can facilitate a smooth transition moving from the domes to whatever is next for them and so meetings and consultations are ongoing.”
“Then, it is proposed that we will meet with the individual occupants and then make a decision, but no definite date has been given as yet for them to move out. The thought is for the process to be as smooth for the residents as possible and not to cause any more unnecessary hardship on them.”
Earlier this month, The Tribune reported that some families allocated domes in the wake of Hurricane Dorian have been renting them to pocket the money.
There have also been reports that dome structures were being used as brothels.
Yesterday, the DRA chairman was asked to respond to reports that officials are planning to prosecute those responsible for mismanaging and using the dome structures for illicit purposes.
However, he only said: “There may have been another agency that went in there and conducted some other type of operation but the DRA was not a part of that so we aren’t aware of any intended prosecutions or anything else. I know I just heard rumors like everything else on what was ongoing. I can’t confirm or deny that criminal activity was going on.”
“I just heard that another agency went in and they were able to find some things. We weren’t a part of that action that was taken when they went in there on previous occasions.”
The dome project is said to have cost the government more than $6m.