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The Government is in the process of reviewing the assessment methods used when dealing with relief benefits, following a natural disaster.
This was pointed out by Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, with responsibility for Local Government Reform, Robert Montague, at a hurricane preparedness seminar, put on by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), in collaboration with Digicel Jamaica, yesterday (June 24), at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
Mr. Montague stressed that the government was committed to changing the methodology of assessment. The State Minister pointed out that disadvantaged individuals as well as beneficiaries of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), would be given special attention during times of disaster.
“The Prime Minister has instructed that we must take into consideration that category of Jamaicans that depend on the state during normal times – those who are registered paupers and PATH beneficiaries. If the government is to give any benefit or relief, they should be first. Because, if in normal times they can’t survive, what happens when times are not normal? And many times they are not in the line (for relief benefits), because they are trying to put their lives together while the greedy is out at the front of the line,” he said, noting that only persons who were genuinely in need would be assisted.
Mr. Montague encouraged community leaders to volunteer to be a part of the disaster response mechanism in the parishes, “whether to join a zonal committee or to join the parish committee, or to be a shelter manager to identify a shelter.” He also called on all Jamaicans to open up their homes to persons during times of disaster and become shelter managers, “because it could be you.” The State Minister urged persons to behave properly when they are in shelters and not to destroy the properties housing them. He also advised persons not to file false claims for losses.
He praised Digicel Jamaica for their assistance with disaster management. “Let me congratulate Digicel (Jamaica) for organizing this seminar.for contributing over $200 million to the Hurricane Ivan effort; for donating over $20 million to the Hurricane Dean school re-building programme, and for their contribution to the Meteorological Service of Jamaica,” he said.
Mr. Montague commended the work of the ODPEM. “Jamaica owes the ODPEM staff members a debt of gratitude. We don’t value their contribution as we ought to. They are the persons we call on if there is an oil spill, they are the persons we call on if there is a major fire,” he said. The State Minister also thanked the Meteorological Service as well as the corporate partners in disaster relief, and volunteers.
The seminar was aimed at informing persons about disaster management procedures.