After seven months of applications and evaluations from the Needs Assessment Unit, Cindy Abrahams has finally been approved for poor relief payments. But there’s a catch: she now has to wait again, this time for a space to become available to actually receive benefits.
Ms. Abrahams first shared her story with Cayman 27 back in November of last year. She came to the media fearful her family would soon lose everything.
Her medical woes started back in October 2016 when she was hospitalised with abdmominal pains. That kicked off a year long fight for life that included a medically-induced coma, multiple life-saving surgeries, and the removal of part of her intestines..
That battle took a toll on her and her husband’s finances, depleting their savings and eventually in June of 2017 the couple finally went to the NAU for help. That’s when they began the frustrating process of filling out forms, sometimes again and again she said, navigating what Ms. Abrahams called “the broken system.”
Fast forward to Monday the 15th of January, when letters from the NAU confirmed she and her husband had both been approved for poor relief. Her husband’s payments are due to commence in February, but Ms. Abrahams has been placed in another queue.
“Approval was granted and definitely once space becomes available,” said Ms. Abrahams, reading from her letter from the NAU.
One long wait is over, but more than a year after medical woes sent her and her husband sliding towards financial ruin, Ms. Abrahams will have to endure another queue before receiving the $650 a month poor relief benefit she has finally been approved for.
“I was told it could be anywhere from 3 to 6 months, it just depends,” said Ms. Abrahams.
Needs Assessment Unit Director Tamara Hurlston confirmed today in a phone conversation that 948 spaces exist on the poor relief list. The list is at maximum capacity.
“It makes me feel like I have to wait for somebody to become deceased,” she said.
The NAU admitted that, more often than not, its poor relief clients leave the list under tragic circumstances.
“It is just a broken system, they are understaffed. Clearly if there’s a wait list for poor relief, they are underfunded,” she said.
As far as Ms. Abrahams medical struggles are concerned, side effects from her treatment sent her to the ER last week, but she said on the whole, her health is slowly improving.
She told Cayman 27 she was able to avoid selling her cherished engagement ring… As Cayman’s charitable community has stepped in to help the couple through…
“It’s charities that step in, it’s not our government that steps in,” she said.
She told Cayman 27 the couple is even considering what they once thought was unthinkable: bidding a sad farewell to the island they love.
“We have begun looking abroad for employment, we don’t want to leave her home country but if we have to, then we will look abroad for work,” said Ms. Abrahams.
Ms. Abrahams said if they can secure work abroad, they may have a chance to save their home.
Back to the NAU, Ms. Abrahams stressed that it’s not her belief that the staff itself is necessarily the problem with the NAU, she said the unit is severely understaffed.
The NAU said the exact number of individuals awaiting poor relief or other NAU services is not immediately available, but said around 1,800 families are currently receiving some sort of NAU assistance.