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No timeline for 'Sandy' relief houses

Ingrid Brown

Thursday, November 08, 2012    

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THERE is still no clear timeline for when Government will begin construction of the promised houses for persons who lost entire structures during the passage of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the island two weeks ago.

However, vouchers to assist persons who had damaged or destroyed roofs could be disbursed as early as next week.

Minister with responsibility for information, Senator Sandrea Falconer, said the construction of these houses will take some time as the Government will have to assist in identifying suitable lands, in cases where beneficiaries do not have legal access to the property on which their homes were initially built.

"In terms of distribution of vouchers, I know that the money is being identified as we speak and we are hoping that as early as next week we can begin to distribute the vouchers," Falconer told journalists at yesterday's Jamaica House press briefing held at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston.

The vouchers, valued at $60,000 for persons who lost entire roofs and $30,000 for those who suffered some amount of damage, will be disbursed through the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and co-ordinated through a co-ordination secretariat in the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).

"[MP] Luther Buchanan will be overseeing it as a representative of the Office of the Prime Minister, and the secretariat at ODPEM will be doing overall co-ordination and working with different agencies of government to ensure that those affected, that we can alleviate the issues as quickly as possible," Falconer explained.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller announced in Parliament this week that more than 4,000 homes were affected by the category one hurricane. Of this number, she said, 365 homes were destroyed, 2,797 had major damage and a further 2,271 had minor damage. The most severe damaged houses were in St Thomas, St Mary and Portland.

The relief houses will be constructed by Food for the Poor under the special Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) housing project.

Meanwhile, Director General of the ODPEM Ronald Jackson explained that while the State would be providing substantial support for the replacement of roofs, beneficiaries are expected to bear some of the costs.

"The individuals who are receiving these vouchers will have to take some responsibility as well, in terms of putting the roof back on to the house," Jackson told the press briefing.

The ODPEM, he said, was also mobilising support from donor partners who have pledged to assist the Government in the Sandy recovery effort.

He said the co-ordination secretariat is being established at ODPEM to ensure there is full co-ordination of government's intervention and response to Sandy recovery.

The secretariat, he explained, will be ongoing for four to six months following which there will be a review to determine if its services are to be further extended.

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