Finance Committee, held on Wednesday, confirmed the allocation of an extra $3 million to help pay for homes damaged after Tropical Storm Grace.
Following questioning from the Leader of the Opposition Roy McTaggart, Minister for Social Development Andre Ebanks gave some background as to who would be receiving the funding.
The increase by $3 million would be supplementary funding to the existing housing repair programme, he advised.
“There were individuals who have been waiting for over 18 months for housing repair service and unfortunately Grace has accelerated their need for repairs and they have got exponentially worse, but, in addition to that, there were home owners who cannot afford repairs who weren't on the list who have damage as a result of Tropical Storm Grace, so it’s incumbent upon the Government to assist as much as we can,” the Minister advised.
Minister Ebanks acknowledged it was a difficult situation, because Cayman was still in hurricane season and therefore Government had to be prudent with repairs so that repairs weren’t undertaken and then another storm comes along and knocks over the repairs they had already done.
“So, we have to take a prudent and cautious approach to drive folks in,” he stated. “Some of the repairs range from roofing to electrical to flooring, all things are urgent as we sit here, as we speak.”
MP for Bodden Town East Dwayne Seymour asked if there would be a cap attributed to each home for repairs. Minister Ebanks said under the existing programme the cap was $25,000 but the Minister had the ability to waive that in a case by case basis at their discretion. Minister Ebanks said he would anticipate this happening because the programme did not run in 2020or for the first part of 2021, so a lot of the cases had become increasingly urgent.
Mr Seymour asked how he could advise his constituents to becoming part of the programme to assist with housing repairs, as his constituency was one of the worst hit after Grace and he had a long list of people waiting.
Minister Ebanks said they were speeding things up because of the extreme necessity. He called the situation a “crisis” due to Grace and said the housing team had created a very simple checklist that could be submitted to the housing repair team and then they would go and assess the homes.
Mr Seymour asked if they were still go through the old programme of getting three bids for the housing repair projects. Minister Ebanks said they were looking at the system but they had to be aware of managing public money and so might have to expand the pool of people who could bid to do the repairs.
People would be means tested for getting funds and the Government was also talking to the R3 organisation to see how they could work together on this project, including them matching funding provided by Government.
Minister Ebanks said: “I think this is a massive opportunity for the entire Government and this honourable house to assist and get our arms around what i believe is an urgent housing situation in this country.”