PHILIPSBURG:— While the Ministry of VSA shares the public’s concerns and frustrations of the people about the pace of the reconstruction process and more specifically the roof repair project, the Ministry of VSA’s role in the roof repair project is limited to verification of documents and social assessments, the actual execution of the repairs falls under the Ministry of VROMI. Priority is naturally given to the most vulnerable in our community, namely the seniors, disabled and single-headed households with children. VSA has been working directly with the Ministry of VROMI and other organizations such as Salvation Army, St. Maarten Development Funds, the White & Yellow Cross Foundation, ADRA, UNDP, and the Red Cross, who are leading several rebuilding programs, to ensure that the most vulnerable are assisted. The Ministries of Finance and VROMI play a critical role in the execution of the roof repair project; Finance to ensure the budget is available to execute the project and the Ministry of VROMI to coordinate the project, the purchase of materials and contracting of labor to execute the repairs.
The Ministry of VSA, more than any other Ministry is continuously in direct contact with those most in need in our community and provides assistance based on its legal mandate and resources provided by the different departments. This includes financial assistance, one-time financial assistance for durable goods and school fees, medical assistance, legal assistance, a basic necessities voucher program, conditional cash transfer programs for persons who have lost their jobs after Irma, and lastly a shelter program to shelter persons in need. Yet, post-hurricane Irma and Maria the most prevalent assistance required is “home” repair assistance, not even just “roof” repairs.
In an invited statement Minister Lee stated, ” Though getting the roof repair project going has been a top priority of this government, the pace has definitely been too slow. The delay in receiving the money from the Netherlands for the budget support has delayed the roof repair project. The questionable procedures of the previous Minister of VROMI regarding the purchase of the materials for the roof repair project have also caused delays. Based on the hard work and commitment of Ministers Gitterson and Ferrier, I believe the roof repair program will launch any day. Future funding challenges will determine the pace and number of homes to be repaired.”
The initial role of VSA within the roof repair program of Government is to assist VROMI with the establishment of the criteria. We have referred all persons who have registered for assistance at the Government building during the months of September to November to VROMI for further assessment. As is customary, VSA will continue to be pro-active in supporting Ministry partners and within its mandate, on the short term, re-launch their “Home Repair Program” which is a program that began in August 2017 with the goal to improve dwellings for our seniors. The re-launch will help fast track the execution of the repair programs in place in by Government and get persons the needed help in a shorter space of time.
Minister Lee is also concerned about the statement that persons are being denied assistance because they are on financial aid (onderstand) or because they receive a pension. “This seems quite unlikely, and I will ensure to look into the matter with Minister Giterson.” The criteria for the roof repair program of Government, which was established by the Council of Ministers, is the following:
Primary eligibility criteria
The owner of a dwelling in Sint Maarten is eligible for assistance in restoring the dwelling to a livable state under the following conditions:
i. The applicant is a documented resident of Sint Maarten;
ii. The applicant can produce proof of ownership of the damaged dwelling;
iii. The applicant can produce proof the damaged dwelling is his/her primary residence;
iv. The total annual income of the homeowner and his/her spouse does not exceed NAF 48,000;
v. Applicant receives no repair assistance from other relief agencies and programs;
The nature of the damage eligible for assistance based on this policy:
vi. The dwelling is in a state in which roof repairs, with possibly minor additional window and door repairs, can restore the dwelling to a livable state (as far as protection from the elements is concerned). This criterion excludes dwellings that are beyond repair and have to be rebuilt entirely.
vii. The owner carries no or insignificant insurance against hurricane damage to the home.
With this criteria, persons on pension or financial aid should not have an issue to qualify for assistance.
Ideally, there should be several Government’s repair programs that each take a different approach to home repairs according to the person’s needs. The above-mentioned criteria should have been for phase 1, and phase 2 should have commenced already which would have broadened the criteria to include a different segment of the population that is in need. For example, the underinsured persons who did not receive much and are unable to repair their home to a livable situation, a rental repair program to assist tenants and landlords with repairing the building so that more rented apartments could become available, families with income but need assistance getting a soft loan with low-interest rates, building vouchers for persons who can afford to pay contractors but require assistance with material, etc.
For more detailed information on the roof repair program, please watch the recording of the press conference on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9D8gmU-zOE&t=166s. Registration forms are available at the new Government Building by the Reception.