Ministry streamlines flood-relief claims

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

In this November 30 file photo, residents and volunteers wade through floodwaters with relief supplies and other items on Jaffar Street, Bamboo No 2, Valsayn South. Photo by Roger Jacob

HOME-OWNERS without insurance can claim up to $20,000 in materials for minor house repairs, and up to $15,000 for materials needed for plumbing, as part of the government’s disaster relief grant programme, in the wake of the recent widespread flooding.

The Ministry of Social Development and Family Services issued a statement on Monday, saying it is working alongside the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government to “support the relief efforts to many households affected by flooding” in last week’s bad weather.

In addition to housing materials, the grant offers rental assistance of up to $2,500 a month for three months and temporary food support, valued at $550 in instances where food was destroyed.

There is a $10,000 cap on claims for household items, and limits for each item specified (see list below).

The ministry said approximately 3,246 applications had been received (as of Monday) for processing by a special unit in the National Social Development Programme, using “a different process flow from the past.” The process, it said, will see payments being made within a shorter period – about two weeks.

“The ministry has added additional resources to support the effort in the field and augmented the administrative processing staff who are managing the online systems.”

The ministry said field officers were out over the weekend, with the Disaster Management Units (DMU) of the municipal corporations, to take applications and assess the needs of those affected.

Social workers attached to the National Family Services Division are also “in the field,” it said, and are ready to provide counselling and psychosocial support to individuals and families.

The ministry’s teams, it said, are working in collaboration with the DMUs at community facilities in Real Spring, Bamboo Number 2, Mafeking, Woodland and Barrackpore.

Losses are being verified in the field, it said, making processing and payments of claims easier. Those making claims must have a form of national ID and evidence of their loss. The loss must be validated by the DMU or the ministry’s field officers.

Those affected and seeking to make claims can do so at the ministry’s dedicated website page: grants.social.gov.tt.

Applicants must fill out a disaster relief form and submit it online or at the social welfare office. A Social Welfare Division officer may help complete the form and have it submitted.

Newsday visited the website, which was user-friendly and simple to navigate.

The link takes the user to the critical incident form, which is preceded by four pre-qualifying questions. They ask whether the applicant is 18 years or older; if they are a citizen or resident of TT; if they have property insurance; and if their househole items (furniture and appliances) are insured.

Those with property insurance and insurance for household items will not qualify. However, those with property insurance, but whose household items are not insured, qualify to apply for the damage to household items but not infrastructure damage.

Those without property insurance but whose household is insured qualify to apply only for infrastructure damage.

The ministry said it has also set up a special unit with the National Social Development Programme to fast-track processing of claims.

People needing help to cope through the flood and recovery experience may contact the National Family Services Division at 623-2608, or call the toll-free suicide prevention hotline at 800-2673for urgent counselling services over the phone.

Items for which claims may be made:

Refrigerator: up to $4,000

Stove: $2,000

Bed and mattress: $1,000

Living room set: $3,500

Ddining room set: $3,500

Chest of drawers: $2,000

Washing machine (dryer not included): $3,500

Wardrobe: $3,000

Kitchen cupboards: $2,000

Clothing grant, per person: $1,000

School supplies: $700 per primary school student, $1,000 per secondary school student