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|Bahama Journal; Hurricane Repair Loans Now Available|
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|Posted by:||Sep 14th 2004, 12:46:46 pm|
|Fig Tree News Team||13 September 2004
The government intends to activate a guarantee loan fund Monday to assist persons whose properties were damaged by Hurricane Frances, officials announced Sunday.
Minister of State for Finance James Smith said the fund would assist those who qualify to go to participating banks and get loans that will be guaranteed.
Interested persons must first be approved by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), which is based in the Cabinet Office downtown, said Minister Smith, who was speaking at a press conference at the Nassau International Airport.
The briefing was called to announce that the government of the Turks & Caicos Islands has donated $200,000 to hurricane relief efforts in the Bahamas. That donation came during a weekend visit of Chief Minister Michael Missick.
Minister Smith pointed out that persons impacted by Hurricane Frances can use all the help they can get.
He said the guarantee loans would be in addition to ongoing efforts by the Government of the Bahamas to make direct handout of supplies and materials to affected households.
Prime Minister Perry Christie also commented on the initiative.
“Hopefully, Minister Smith will be able to put a very human face on those loans and they are not the traditional loans with the traditional interest rates,” he said. “They would give those people who need quick access to money, an opportunity to get it and to repair their lives.”
Prime Minister Christie also spoke of a new “complication” that is going to place a strain on efforts to reconstruct parts of the Bahamas devastated by the hurricane.
“This matter is going to be made more complicated because of the price of building materials increasing dramatically if only because of the demand a ruined Grenada will make, Jamaica and Florida will make,” the prime minister said.
He said prices for building supplies are already “soaring”.
“So it’s going to be a very tremendous challenge for us and even the traditional donors,” Mr. Christie added. “The Bahamas will have competing interests in terms of making donations and so we are going to be challenged in this regard.”
Minister Smith, meanwhile, is managing a separate fund known as the national disaster relief fund.
He said proceeds from that fund, which now stands at $1 million, will be used for emergency relief, including the acquisition and delivery of water, food and other emergency supplies.
In addition, monies from the fund will be used to purchase building and construction materials for distribution to uninsured private homes that suffered serious damage as a result of the storm.
The fund will also cover the rental or purchase of equipment not readily available in government ministries that are required for the restoration and construction process, Minister Smith said.
He pointed out that the disaster relief fund will not be used to fund public infrastructure or capital works projects.
“So we’re putting all of the proceeds of the fund into direct assistance to the households,” the minister said.
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