PHILIPSBURG–Too many residents are still without roofs with the upcoming Atlantic Hurricane Season some 67 days away, said United Democrats leader Member of Parliament Theo Heyliger, as he called for speedier help for those who have applied to government for assistance.
“Too many people, including our seniors, have approached me about not being able to qualify for assistance from their own government. Some are told their roofs cannot be fixed because they get onderstand (welfare) and others because they get a small pension. This cannot continue,” Heyliger said.
His proposal is for the criteria for repairs to focus on the extent of damage and to put keener attention to how small the financial assistance from government, or the pension senior citizens have worked for is, rather than writing people off because they have a small income.
It is time the criteria for assistance be reviewed to take into consideration the reality of the country and its residents. “We must look at what is feasible and really pay attention to who needs help. We cannot use a broad brush for everyone. The reality on St. Maarten is different for each person.”
Many of those petitioning government for help are without insurance and the financial means to do repairs themselves, he said. “Some people did not put faith in insurance companies after the trials of Hurricane Luis 22 years ago, and those who did, are facing an uphill battle.”
Insurance aside, government has a role to take care of its people, he said. “I am part of the current coalition, and as a MP I am calling on the minister in charge of the social development to really look at what our people are facing and assist them now before the season starts,” Heyliger said.
“All this time after Irma the sea of blue tarps on the island should have lessened. The way things are the blue on land is rivalling that of the sea that surrounds us. It is difficult to see and hear the pleas of the St. Maarten people and to have tell them to wait and wait,” Heyliger said.
Tackling poverty from the foundation of damaged houses to parents unable to pay school fees is a major concern in rebuilding St. Maarten, and more so in the economic recovery of the country, he said. “This is why we cannot afford to bypass anyone.”