Among the latest assistance Government is giving those who suffered great losses from last weekend’s floods are two new speedy flood relief grants for those victims hardest hit and a deferral “bligh” on Housing Development Corporation (HDC) payments for flood victims until January.
A family without children who suffered catastrophic damage from flood waters entering their living space is eligible for a flat grant of $15,000. A similar family with children will be eligible for a flat grant of $20,000, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing.
Rowley confirmed the grants will help at least 2,000 people who suffered catastrophic damage from last weekend’s floods. He also detailed other concessions for Greenvale, La Horquetta residents who were among hardest-hit.
The Social Development/Family Services Ministry, which has been doing assessments in recent days, will start issuing cheques for the two categories of flat grants from today, he added.
Rowley said the recent bad weather dumped a month’s rainfall on T&T in three to four days.
“It seems to have passed now and we have sunshine but areas affected by flood waters now have new issues of clean-up and removal of mud to prevent dust forming,” he said.
He said Social Development assessment so far is that approximately 2,000 families suffered catastrophic effects, losing everything.
“We normally have certain kinds of reliefs available, but in this situation we had to review what’s available given the widespread and extensive nature of the damage within the households and a cross-section of the population affected,” he said.
He said Cabinet examined what was available, such as the $10,000 grant for appliances and various other grants.
“To speed up this process and not have this detailing of each household or each claimant, we decided it would be reasonable and affordable for the taxpayer to fund each household that’s deemed by the Social Development Ministry to have been impacted in a catastrophic way.”
Any such family without children would get the flat grant of $15,000 while those with children get $20,000
In the ministry’s assessments, Rowley said households will qualify for these two grants depending on what happened to them.
If a family’s ground floor is a living space where items were all lost, they may qualify. But a family would not qualify if their ground floor is an open space, or only has a hammock or cot, or if the water on their street was only two feet and didn’t damage their property internally.
Speeding up the process with a flat grant will assist the ministry to begin getting cheques out from today, he said.
“I asked public officials issuing cheques to do so with great dispatch,” Rowley said, assuring swift work.
National Security and Communication Minister Stuart Young said initial assessment was that 3,500 households – and 120,000 people – are affected. He said the data continued to rise and Government has trained muncipal police to help Social Development assessors.
“It’s a moving figure, the Prime Minister is dealing now with 2,000 who were assessed and we expect the number to continue upward.”
The flat grants are expected to assist households from Mafeking, Sangre Grande and Greenvale to St Helena, El Carmen and other parts of North Oropouche, who were among the hardest hit by floods.
For people who haven’t suffered catastrophic damage but have been affected in some way, the original arrangement for grants/assistance remains in place, Rowley said.
They can apply for other grants once they can show they’ve been impacted and require funds to fix electrical, plumbing or damage to property. He said those grants are $15,000, $20,000 and $25,000.
2-month mortgage break for HDC tenants
In Greenvale’s case particularly, Rowley said all its underground electrical conduits were impacted by floods.
Because it’s an HDC development, he said the HDC will do inspection and rectify all electrical and plumbing problems. As a result, Greenvale tenants won’t qualify for grants to fix plumbing or electrical damage. A state agency is inspecting all houses to ensure electricals are back to normal.
Rowley also announced that people in Greenvale, Oropoune or any other flood-hit HDC development who pay mortgage or rentals will get temporary relief from HDC.
He said the Housing Minister will communicate with the mortgage agency for a deferral of arrangements until January for such people who have mortgages/liability on HDC units.
HDC will do the same for its tenants,”to give people a little more money to treat with their immediate needs apart from the grants they’ll get,” the PM added.
Rowley stressed grants aren’t “compensation” but assistance. The Finance Ministry is funding the Social Development relief. He said Government will use what it has until arrival of the $4 million in flood relief recently offered by three international banks.