With torrential storms becoming the “new norm” in Westman and across the country, Coun. Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres) says changes need to be made to disaster financial assistance policies.
Brandon City Council supported a motion brought forward by Chaboyer this week that calls for the Association of Manitoba Municipalities to lobby the governments of Canada and Manitoba for a review of DFA programs, as well as to increase funding and expand eligibility criteria in order to allow municipalities more rapid and consistent access to funding.
“This has to be priority No. 1,” Chaboyer said. “We have to lobby the governments to react quicker and also to expand the criteria, so we’re not sitting there with a big question mark over our head wondering if we’ll be allowed to put in a claim or not.”
Chaboyer said it was a budget review meeting, following a storm on June 25, that prompted her to put forward the motion. The storm brought heavy rain and flooded several basements in the city’s west end. Pumps were deployed to various locations during the storm, causing the city to go over budget.
“We were overspent on our budget for renting the pumps,” Chaboyer said. “We applied for the DFA assistance not knowing even if the province was going to declare it a disaster, so we were in crisis mode of going back to department heads, trying to figure out how we can cover this $150,000.”
For some Brandon residents, it was the second flood in eight years.
“It’s impacting our homes. It impacts the value of our homes and it’s just the stress … the stress is unbelievable,” Evergreen Boulevard resident Wendy Bulloch said at the time.
Following the storm, Brian Kayes, the city’s director of emergency management, submitted a community impact assessment to the Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization formally asking the province to recognize this event as eligible for DFA.
The city received confirmation on Aug. 13 that the province established a DFA program for June 21-25 heavy rains. Residents who had non-insurable property damages from this event are eligible to apply for DFA. Applicants have 90 days from the start of the program to submit their claim. The city notes on its website that existence of a DFA program does not guarantee that financial assistance will occur.
Council’s motion will next be presented at the AMM convention, which takes place in November at the Keystone Centre.
“The time has come that we have to continue the discussion with the provincial and federal governments to ensure that there is adequate funding. Climate change seems to be affecting our lives more and more across the country. It’s almost becoming the new norm,” Chaboyer said at this week’s council meeting.
According to Manitoba EMO, the DFA program provides assistance for certain “disaster-related losses when a widespread disaster strikes” and “creates an unreasonable financial burden.”
When a DFA program is established for a disaster, assistance is generally provided for the recovery needs of local governments, occupied private residential properties, farms, small business and some not-for-profit organizations.
Recent disasters currently listed on the Manitoba website include the July 13 severe storm in the Pipestone area, July 6-7 heavy rains in the Village of Winnipegosis and June forest fires at Ilford/War Lake First Nation, among several others.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 7, 2013