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Pandemic making a bad situation worse for Dorian victims

The Nassau Guardian April 21, 2020

Rachel Knowles

Nearly eight months after she lost her home in Hurricane Dorian, Beverly Sawyer, 55, said she feels totally unprepared for the upcoming hurricane season.

Sawyer said COVID-19 is complicating the recovery process.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do because so much work has not been done over these last four weeks because of these lockdowns. We’re going to be in a bad state if we get a hurricane,” she said.

Sawyer added, “Some roofs have been fixed, but there are still a lot of people with blue tarps on their roofs not completed because they don’t have the money to buy the materials, or they got the money to buy the materials, but can’t pay someone to fix it.”

Dorian flattened parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama last September, killing at least 70 people and leaving thousands homeless.

Sawyer, who worked as a legal assistant before the storm, was living in a tent up until February. She said she is now in a dome on her property.

“It’s not completed because of the virus,” she said. “The contractor and his men went back to Nassau for the weekend with the intent of coming back and then got stuck in Nassau. So, it’s livable, but it’s not finished.”

She said that despite having applied to the Department of Social Services months ago for appliance assistance and extended unemployment benefits, she and others she knows have heard nothing back and received no funds.

“They have not reached out to facilitate the many ways in which they said they would assist Abaco. I’ve been waiting since the end of January when I applied for a social services grant to buy a stove and a refrigerator. Application in, and not a word. And I’m not the only one.

“[M]arch 1st, they had us apply for the extended 13 weeks of unemployment pay — nothing yet. I keep on checking with National Insurance.”

She added, “I’m scraping it to go to the food store. I’m still eating out of a can, canned beans and canned vegetables, and what not because I haven’t gotten the extra help that they promised.”

While Sawyer has been baking bread to sell to provide herself with some income, she is concerned about making ends meet now that COVID-19 has put more limits on people’s budgets.

She said her main expense is fuel for her small generator.

“If I have a few dollars extra, I may go to the food store and buy me some milk and eggs, but I can’t splurge because I’ve only got the couple of dollars that I get from baking bread three days a week,” she said.

“I used to have a pizza business before the hurricane, and I was making pizzas on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But with the lockdowns, I can’t do that because people can’t come out and buy pizza.

“And then with the pandemic, things have slowed down. Some people were making a few dollars. How can they even afford to come and buy it from me? The government needs to find a way to get people back to work.”

However, Sawyer noted that getting back to work can only be made possible on Family Islands with no COVID-19 cases if their borders can be properly secured. She urged the government to crack down on people moving between islands.

“We are having people paying thousands of dollars, I understand, chartering and flying into Abaco and sneaking in,” she said.

As of yesterday, there were 64 confirmed COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas — 55 on New Providence, seven on Grand Bahama, one on Bimini and one on Cat Cay.

Nine people have died from the disease.

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