Housing grant staff tackles demands

Hurricane Ivan left many homeowners desperately needing assistance to begin the arduous task of rebuilding or repairing. Government officials quickly recognised that without a programme to help the uninsured, underinsured or those without means, many people would be unable to recover.

The Housing Recovery Grant evolved from this need, beginning with Government allocating $5.5 million to the programme and arranging for the Cayman Islands Development Bank to administer the funds, explained a GIS press release.

At the outset, General Manager for CIDB Angela Miller had a dual role, continuing her regular bank work while ensuring the fund was properly functioning.

Also assuming a dual role was Clyte Linwood, who was redeployed from the Personnel Training Unit.

‘Immediately after Ivan, Clyte provided invaluable service to the community through her dedicated work with the HRG,’ said Mrs. Miller. ‘She was virtually a one-woman show as she dealt with every aspect of the fund in its early stages, laying the foundation for the current team to follow. Undoubtedly, there are many recipients who are grateful for her having been involved.’

Four full time staff members were later hired and, as project manager, Mrs. Rhonda Conolly quickly took an active role.

‘I might be regarded as team leader but we are all equal in this group,’ said Mrs. Conolly. ‘Every day we face new challenges but we understand that going above and beyond our job descriptions is just part of our daily routine. But it’s gratifying to know that we have worked so hard to help so many people and that we are appreciated.’

Another team member, Ms Nola Sanderson, runs the front desk, making her the first point of contact for most.

‘Nola has the versatile personality necessary for dealing with people whether they are happy or upset,’ said Ms Conolly. ‘This makes her ideal for the HRG because no matter the situation, she is understanding and helpful and will try her best to ensure that everyone goes away satisfied. People might like to know that on top of her 40-hour workweek, she visits sites and assesses applicants’ furniture requirements on weekends. Nola absolutely should be commended for her efforts.’

The remaining team members are equally invaluable, the release said. Ms Giselle Webb is officially assigned to the Ministry of Tourism but was redeployed to CIDB to assist the HRG in many ways. Known for her photographic memory, she can be depended upon to answer questions about applicants, the status of applications and anything else related to the programme. Giselle has been involved since the early days with Clyte Linwood. She has also taken on the responsibility of keeping all the spreadsheets up-to-date on the status of each applicant and vital information for the Bank.

‘We all work through lunch and then come in on Saturdays to ensure that we are helping as many people as possible, as quickly as possible,’ she said. ‘It is such positive reinforcement to be recognized on the street and thanked for help. Working here has truly shown me the greatness that can come out of a terrible situation.’

The newest staff member is Ms Dina Douglas, who joined 24 March. She has taken on the monumental task of inputting all application data into the computer. She is the main voice on the phone assisting and informing applicants on the status of their applications in addition to any queries they may have. She is also responsible for processing all applications to the site inspection stage.

‘These four ladies have made quite an impact,’ said Mrs. Miller. ‘It is undeniable that they are dedicated to their job and their outstanding efforts have helped to maximise our ability to help those in need. The public should feel confident with them at the helm of the HRG and yet the move to assist the public actually goes back even further.’

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