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Hustle Truck has not been axed, Minister Burch assures

The Hustle Truck initiative for the unemployed has not been axed, according to National Security Minister David Burch.The Royal Gazette: “I don't give up easily. My understanding is, yes, the Hustle Truck is continuing.”The Hustle Truck was launched in April 2007 and has had 938 participants since then, according to Major Dill.

He told a town hall meeting in St. George's on Tuesday: “The Hustle Truck is not dying. It is going nowhere. It's going to be modified to reflect the funding we have.”

Fears the $1 million-a-year programme had been cancelled were sparked when Minister without Portfolio Michael Weeks told the House of Assembly on February 28 it had been a success but would have no funds in 2011-12.

“No Bermudian should be disadvantaged by the end of the programme in this form,” he said.

Supporters of the scheme, which provides temporary manual work for jobseekers, said it would be a loss to the Island, while Health Minister Zane DeSilva called for private companies to provide funding to keep it going.

But a Government spokeswoman said yesterday: “The [National Security] Minister has said on numerous occasions, as recently as Tuesday in St. George's, that the programme will not end.”

Barrett Dill, general manager of Bermuda Housing Corporation (BHC), which runs the Hustle Truck and falls under National Security, told

He acknowledged the comment made by Mr Weeks in Parliament about the zero allocation in the 2011-12 Budget, but said: “My intent is to continue the operation.”

Asked how it would be funded, he said: “That's the million dollar question, literally. That's what I'm working on right now. I need to have meetings on restructuring. I don't have any answers for you at the moment.

“It's been running for over three-and-a-half years now. It's now a matter of how can we best ensure continuity. I'm working extremely hard to restructure to ensure that it goes forward.”

He said: “Many have gone on to full-time employment. There were a total of 109 businesses offering jobs such as masons, landscapers, wait staff, bell men, pot washers and carpenters in 2010 alone.”

The scheme is run by BHC staff from an office at the Harmony Club in Paget.

As many as 60 participants show up at 8am each weekday and are assigned tasks, including cleaning bus shelters, removing graffiti from walls and renovating BHC properties.

The Hustle Truck cost taxpayers $1.7 million in financial year 2008-9 and was allocated $1 million in both 2009-10 and 2010-11.

Senator Burch said last year the programme operated with three trucks provided by Works and Engineering.

Deputy Premier Derrick Burgess told the House of Assembly on Wednesday that his renamed Ministry of Public Works would spend more than $300,000 on the scheme in 2011-12.

“The budget includes $1,398,000 for the quarry administration cost centre...which includes a $303,000 allowance for the Hustle Truck initiative,” he said.

The comment prompted Shadow Public Works Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin to ask if that meant it hadn't been axed.

She said it was good news the Ministry was to “foot the bill” but added: “We just want to make sure that the Minister has the opportunity to explain with more time that the programme has not been cut and would still be operational.”

Mr Burgess did not get chance to respond during the three-hour debate on his Ministry's budget for the coming fiscal year and it was not possible to get a comment from him afterwards.

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Published March 11, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated March 11, 2011 at 8:59 am)

Hustle Truck has not been axed, Minister Burch assures

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