Province changes disaster relief payouts
Foothills: Homeowners, businesses can get 90 per cent of rebuild costs up front
Wednesday, Jan 28, 2015 11:43 am
Homeowners and businesses still recovering from the 2013 flood will get more cash up front from the provincial government to help with the cost of rebuilding.
Premier Jim Prentice announced Jan. 24 in High River changes to the provincial Disaster Recovery Program intended to close claims for financial support that remain open a year-and-a-half after the disaster.
The Premier revealed the Province will now provide up to 90 per cent of the assessed value of repairs ahead of time. Until this point, the Province has provided advances of 50 per cent.
“I would stress that our intent is to accelerate payment, to accelerate reconstruction and at the same time to be responsible with the expenditure of dollars,” said Prentice.
Homeowners will still need to submit receipts to qualify for the remaining 10 per cent of the funding.
Prentice said claimants who received 50 per cent advance payments and still have open files can be eligible to now receive up to 90 per cent.
“They could be brought up to 90 per cent, the same way that 90 per cent is available to other people,” he said.
Prentice said the provincial government has seen 10,500 claims as a result of the 2013 flood coming from across Alberta. Almost 8,500 have been resolved to date.
Of the 2,000 outstanding claims, about half are in High River with the remaining claims coming from other communities across Alberta, mostly in the Calgary region.
“We have made progress, 2,000 claims remain open,” said Prentice. “It’s our intent that by this summer the vast majority of the remaining claims will be resolved.”
He said he has heard the need for additional resources and the Province is on its way to clearing up outstanding claims.
“We cleaned out all the appeals before the holiday season and this should allow us to tackle the other significant problem,” said Prentice.
The Province will bring on an additional 15 caseworkers handling outstanding DRP files.
“They’ll be working together with existing resources within this community to expedite and accelerate the claims of homeowners and business owners so they can rebuild, and so this community can grow and prosper,” said Prentice.
He said it will cost about $20 million to push the outstanding cases to closure, all funds that are covered within existing budgets. As well, he said the cost of the additional staff is eligible to be covered by federal disaster funding.
Municipal Affairs Minister Diana McQueen said the changes will help to close the remaining files, while ensuring families that are still waiting for closure have the support they need.
“The will mean Albertans here can finish to their homes and businesses without having to front the money themselves,” she said. “They will have the money they need in order to complete the repairs.”
McQueen said the Province is down to the most complex remaining outstanding cases and those still open by the summer will get the time and attention they deserve.
Highwood MLA Danielle Smith said the announcement is important to help the community be able to rebuild.
“Today’s announcement means a lot to me and I know it means a lot to the people of my constituency who’ve had to overcome so many challenges,” she said.
Macleod MP John Barlow said he has met Province officials several times since he took office in July 2014 to share concerns raised by his flood-affected constituents.
“Many residents have come to my office to discuss their DRP files,” said Barlow. “They are still stressed, with a lot on their minds, and they will now have one less thing to deal with.”
Barlow said he is pleased with their solution to deal with outstanding DRP files, specifically the newly announced funding model.
“It is great to see the Premier make this commitment, because it is important to High River, Bragg Creek, and Redwood Meadows residents to get their communities back on their feet,” Barlow said. “We need homeowners back in their homes, and businesses up and running.”
“Residents raised concerns on the length of time to get these files completed,” said Barlow.