Council pleased with new disaster relief assistance programs
By Chad Ingram
Published June 2, 2016
The Ontario government has replaced what was the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program with two new programs.
“These programs are meant to be a streamlined version of the former ODRAP,” Petr Sizov, a municipal advisor with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, told Minden Hills councillors during a presentation at a May 26 meeting.
Rolled out by the province in March, the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontario program is for individuals who experience property damage as a result of a natural disaster, while the Municipal Disaster Recovery Assistance program is to reimburse municipalities for eligible emergency response and repair costs.
A major change is that the new programs eliminate the need for local fundraising. Under ODRAP, communities affected by a natural disaster were made to fundraise for themselves, with the province matching raised monies up to a ratio of two-to-one. It was the only province that required disaster-stricken communities to do so.
After the Minden flood of 2013, the community raised $780,000 towards what ended up being $1.6 million in eligible ODRAP claims.
“Certainly, the new program, removing local fundraising from it, is a welcome change,” said Reeve Brent Devolin.
The new programs also remove the need for the creation of disaster relief committees, bodies appointed by local councils that were responsible for the organizing of fundraising efforts, as well as reviewing applications and processing payments.
Under the new program, payments will be made to individuals by the government, directly.
The municipal program is based on a municipal-provincial cost sharing formula. In order to qualify for assistance, costs incurred by a municipal government must be equal to or greater than three per cent of its own-purpose taxation levy. For the first three per cent of the levy value, the province will fund 75 per cent of cost, the remaining 25 per cent falling to the municipality. For the rest of the expenses, beyond the three per cent mark, 95 per cent of those costs will be paid by the province, the remaining five per cent falling to the municipality.
“I think this is a great step forward,” Devolin said. “I think it’s clearer.”
The province considers disasters to be exceptional, sudden, infrequent events such as earthquakes or, what Sizov called, “one in 100-year floods.”
Minden has experienced a number of severe floods in the past century and Councillor Jean Anthon wondered if Minden flooded again in, say, 20 years for example, if the province would leave the community on it own.
“The extent of the damage would be assessed by the ministry,” Sizov said. “Just to emphasize, this isn’t set in stone.”