Unwilling to wait any longer for funds promised by the European Union, the Cayman Islands Government has decided to immediately provide initial funding of about CI$4 million for the repair and rebuilding of homes damaged by Hurricane Ivan.
Speaking at the Cabinet press briefing Friday, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said more than 100 homes still need repair or rebuilding, nearly three years after Hurricane Ivan damaged them in September 2004.
‘While it is still expected that the EU funds will eventually be received, we have decided that we can no longer wait on these funds and that, regardless of cost, we must ensure that needy homeowners who had their homes damaged or lost during Ivan are finally able to have their needs addressed,’ he said.
The European Union Member States approved a so-called C-envelope payment of seven million Euros last August, but the actual receipt of those funds has been delayed several times by a series of bureaucratic requests.
The government funding will allow the National Recovery Fund to commence work on 118 homes that have been qualified and assessed for repairs, Mr. Tibbetts said.
‘In addition, we have had preliminary discussion with the NRF regarding the need to alter the criteria by which persons qualify for assistance from the NRF in relation to this funding provided by Government,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘This is because we are aware of a number of homeowners who required assistance but did not fall within the fairly restrictive criteria under which the NRF, as a trust receiving private donations, was required to operate.’
Mr. Tibbetts explained that under those criteria, people with homeowner’s insurance did not qualify for assistance from the NRF. However, because of averaging clauses in insurance policies, some of those homeowners did not receive settlements large enough to allow them to do the necessary repairs to their homes.
‘Many of these people remain in need and we are satisfied that this category of homeowner will now be able to be assisted under the arrangements being made with the NRF in relation to this funding.’
Although the funding is being provided immediately, Mr. Tibbetts said the necessary work is expected to take up to a year to complete.
‘We ask for continued patience as all individuals cannot be assisted at the same time,’ he said.
The $4 million funding is in addition to CI$19.4 million that the Cayman Islands Government has already provided in financial assistance to homeowners affected by Hurricane Ivan. So far, Mr. Tibbetts said some 450 homes have been repaired and 11 have been completely rebuilt.
Still more needs to be done, he said.
‘The objective of the government is to ensure every needy homeowner who suffered loss or damage to their properties during Hurricane Ivan ‘gets the assistance they deserve’, Mr. Tibbetts said.
The decision was made the day after Category 4 Hurricane Dean passed a little more than 100 miles south of Grand Cayman. However, the decision to fund the Hurricane Ivan repairs was already in the works, Mr. Tibbetts said.
‘While the decision wasn’t made because of Hurricane Dean, it rushed it to the fore again,’ he said. ‘But it wasn’t because of Dean.’
If and when the EU C-envelope is every received, Mr. Tibbetts said the exact use of the funds would have to be negotiated since the government is now paying for some of what the C-envelope would have been used for.
‘They will be used for hurricane related efforts on a national level,’ he said.
One possibility would be to strengthen homes.
‘We need to be looking at long-term methodology of making sure people’s homes are shuttered,’ he said, adding that the Hurricane Ivan experience told a tale of what a country could go through if houses aren’t secured properly.