While suggesting that people abused the previous small home repair program, Disaster Reconstruction Authority Chairman (DRA) Alex Storr yesterday announced the launch of a new homeowners assistance relief program.
He said outstanding purchase orders and direct grants from the previous program will no longer be used.
“When I first took the helm of the DRA, I met every project with foundational issues, which included the small home repair program,” Storr said during a weekly press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister.
“The program was oversubscribed outside of the parameters of [what] the then-Cabinet of The Bahamas set, which created a major funding commitment issue.”
As a result, the DRA did “a deep dive” to understanding the failure of the program, he said.
Storr said it determined that it made sense to launch a new program aimed at “specifically closing in homes”.
“What does this mean for residents? For those that applied and never received assistance, recovery is on the way,” he said.
“For those that were not able to apply for whatever reason, recovery is on the way. We are pleased to announce the launch of the homeowners assistance relief program (HARP).”
Storr said the program will aid homeowners in need of roof repair, window and siding repair, and plumbing and electrical repair.
He said the program will be different from the small homes repairs program.
Storr said the DRA will seek to procure building supplies in bulk, so it can assist as many residents of Abaco and Grand Bahama as possible.
“We do recognize that all governments are limited financially, which is why we sought to change the model to this one,” he said.
When asked how the program will be financed, Storr replied, “We have received some donations that will go towards this program as well as some of our funds from within our budget. As always, we are asking for more donations. Every little bit counts.”
He said the DRA has about $2 million for the program.
Storr said what it has is “just the start and the tip of the iceberg”.
“That’s why we are still seeking donations and we still are working on several ways to get more material,” he said.
“We have negotiations with NGOs as well as persons who have interests in some of the major suppliers in the United States to try get better prices. Some of them may even be willing to donate an equal amount to what we’ve purchased.”
Storr said the first phase of the program will start today, which marks the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Dorian.
He said a team will go door to door to people who are currently in the DRA’s database on Abaco.
Storr said others can also call to request assistance.
“If you have not applied and experienced damage that you can prove was caused by Hurricane Dorian, please contact our offices and a representative will assist,” Storr said.
“We have recently developed an assessment tool app that will be used by our assessors to log building material needs and the assessment reports for each homeowner. This will enable us to accurately forecast building supplies and labour estimates.”
Storr said the assessment phase will take roughly two weeks to complete on Abaco and three weeks on Grand Bahama.
Once that is done, the authority will procure the necessary building materials, he said.
“Of note, we are using local talent for the assessment phase and then for the reconstruction phase,” Storr said.
“The DRA will seek to employ temporarily up to 100 workers during these phases on each island.”
The DRA was formed about three weeks after Dorian pummeled Abaco and Grand Bahama.
The authority created a small homes repair program to offer assistance to residents of the islands who were trying to rebuild homes devastated by the Category 5 storm.
“We further noted that the prior program, we discovered categories for damage were not confined to reconstruction parameters in what is considered major damage,” Storr said yesterday.
“In some instances, we saw high-end mattresses and interior mirrors, for example, being purchased with aide funds.”
He said he saw a purchase order for a mattress that cost $2,500.
Storr said those funds were supposed to be used for home repair.
“There was an approved list internally within the DRA,” he said.
“Many of these items were not on the approved list but were approved by persons within the DRA.”
Asked if he believed the previous program was abused, Storr said, “I would say, but we are now undergoing an audit and I will let the chips fall where they may.”