Five years after their home was destroyed by Tropical Storm Tomas, Leon and Juley Murrell are still waiting for help from the Government agencies responsible for assisting the dislocated families.
The couple, whose house once stood at 2nd Avenue, Vauxhall, Christ Church, complained to Barbados TODAY that they had been shuttling back and forth between the National Housing Corporation (NHC) and Rural Development Commission (RDC), having not been able to benefit from the Catastrophe Fund which was established by the former Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Administration to bail out needy persons affected by such disasters.
“We went to National Housing first and they had actually started to assist us. They gave us some material to start rebuilding our home. But after the initial set of material they gave us, they said that someone told them not to give us any more.
“They never said who told them not to give us any more or why. We were stopped dead in our tracks at that point. That was 2011,” said Leon Murrell.
He recalled that since then, they were told to go to RDC, “because we had applied to them before Tomas for assistance with the house.”
However, he complained that RDC informed them it had no money.
“So we still are where we were back them and don’t have any where to go,” lamented Murrell, who noted that he and his wife were currently unemployed.
His wife Juley recalled that she had told
the commission that her husband was an A class carpenter and would be willing to rebuild their house, once they could be given the materials.
“And they had asked us to do a quotation of the material and bring it back to them and we had done that. So all they had requested from us, knowing that he [her husband] is the owner of the land [on which the rented house stood], we have done all that and [then] they did not bother. They just said leave it there,” she told Barbados TODAY.
She said after speaking with several officers at RDC they were told their case was referred to the board for a decision. “And as far as we know, it is [still] before the board,” intervened her husband.
The couple said they even returned to RDC last month and were asked to update the quotation taking in consideration that building costs had changed over the years.
They remembered revising the quotation and resubmitting it to the commission.
“Within a week we had our part done. So when we went in they said we should get it [ the material], but it was for this particular person to approve. Where we are [living] now, the owner wants their house. The gentleman lives abroad and he had put us up in his house. So he wants his house now. So this cause us to now push even further. He is unemployed and I am unemployed,” Juley emphasized. The Murrells said that as they continued to plead for help, they returned again to NHC and were informed by an officer that money was available up to 2013.
“So all that time our application was in and they had money and no one called us,” said Juley. She also informed Barbados TODAY that when she later applied for an NHC unit, she found out she actually had one on file for more than 20 years.
When contacted, Director of RDC Randolph Outram admitted that the years of delay in helping the Murrells as well as others in a similar position, was due to Government’s financial constraints.
However, Outram gave the assurance that there was light at the end of the tunnel for the couple, whose case was at the top of the RDC’s list.
“One of the areas that have been tried was the Catastrophe Fund, but could not have accessed that fund really. That is why you would have seen Minister [of Finance] Chris Sinckler saying recently that they want to abandon that fund, because it never helped anybody it was supposed to help,” the commission director added.
“We got money in and we used that to do what we could have done. But we still awaiting money to help other people and that is our position,” he stated.
He disclosed that only last week, an official from the Ministry of Housing called the commission about the couple and he was to call back this week “to make a proposal to them as to how we may be able to work with the National Housing Corporation to assist in the matter. And that is where we are,” the RDC boss noted.
Meanwhile, the custodian of the Catastrophe Fund – the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) – also conceded that since its establishment in 2007, no one has benefitted from it. Director of the NIS Ian Carrington told Barbados TODAY that it became impossible for anyone to access the Fund because the regulations governing the Fund were in variance with its objectives. “The regulations to effect the proper management of claims, were slow in coming and then when they were put into effect the regulations were in some way not reflective of what the purpose was set out to be achieved by this fund. So really that was the problem and is still the problem. So the fund is to be dissolved and the money used,” Carrington added.
The NIS boss revealed that up to the end of December 2015, some $39 million was in the Fund.