Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro with Mayor Randy Hope on tour in Chatham. February 26, 2018. (Photo by Sarah Cowan Blackburn News Chatham-Kent).

Disaster Relief Could Be On The Way For CK

If you live in Chatham and Thamesville and your basement was hit with flooding this week, there is hope for some potential reimbursements.

Minister of Municipal Affairs Bill Mauro visited Thamesville and Chatham on Monday afternoon and thanked emergency personnel for a job well done during the flood.

“It’s obvious when you visit the three communities that they have experienced a very significant event,” says Mauro. “It’s just good for us to be here to see it on the ground… to thank the people, the first responders, the administrations, and the elected officials who have done so much to make their communities safe… and to let them know that we’re here to help in any way we can.”

Mauro says the municipality could qualify for two provincial programs — one to help homeowners with gaps in their insurance and the other to assist municipalities with infrastructure upgrades and cleanup.

He says the provincial disaster assessment teams have already been to Brantford and will be heading to Thamesville and Chatham soon.

“They will usually wait until the waters have completely receded, but not always so that they can assess damage. At some point, based on the work that they do on the ground, they make a recommendation back to me as the minister on whether or not to activate the program,” he says.

Mauro says municipalities have no ceiling on how much recovery funding they could get but each homeowner has a $250,000 payout limit.

He says the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians program is primarily in place to help people who are homeowners or renters.

“It deals with essentials necessary for you to inhabit your home. If it’s a furnace for heating or a fridge for food or some other core essentials to enable you to move back into your home, that’s what that program is for. It’s not intended to be a replacement for insurance,” says Mauro.

Mauro says the disaster assessment process should be quick once waters recede but wouldn’t expand on the timeline.

“There is a threshold of damage relative to your total taxation revenue that municipalities have to meet. That work is ongoing but takes a little longer to determine eligibility because engineering studies are usually necessary if there’s any infrastructure damage,” the minister says.

Mauro says should the program be activated, there will be a boundary. If you live within the boundary, you will be eligible to apply. He says whether you are eligible for the program is work that is done by the municipal services office. Residents may then become eligible for some potential reimbursements.

He urges homeowners to keep their receipts and apply for relief funding quickly if their homes were flooded.

“They need to fill out applications, we are not just writing cheques to people. They need to ensure their applications are complete and keep all receipts to justify the submission on your application,” Mauro says.

Mayor Randy Hope is optimistic about qualifying for some disaster relief funding, but how much is still up in the air.

Mauro says the programs paid out about $8-million to communities in Ontario between 2005 and 2010, but that number has jumped to around $180-million from 2010 to 2015 because strong storms have been occurring more frequently.

He says there are also lots of infrastructure programs in the province.

“There’s the Clean Water Waste Water Fund that the province has partnered with the federal government on. There’s a lot out there… the federal government also has a National Disaster Mitigation Program, but we believe there needs to be more done,” explains Mauro. “It’s a $200-million, five-year program–that’s not a criticism, but simply to say, I think the evidence is there, not just in Ontario but I would expect right across Canada, where municipalities and provinces are dealing with these issues. I believe the federal government has a role to play.”

-Written by Sarah Cowan and Paul Pedro