Fort McMurray Fires Update: Transition From Disaster to Recovery
Canadian Red Cross announces another $25 million in money transfers to Fort McMurray evacuees, on top of previous $50 million
May 31, 2016: In another unprecedented move, the Canadian Red Cross announced yesterday an additional $25 million transfer to all Fort McMurray area evacuees. The first person in a household will receive $300, each additional family member will receive $50. A family of four will therefore receive $450. This money will be electronically transferred to all evacuees after they have registered at one of several Fort McMurray information centres on re-entry. The staggered re-entry of residents begins June 1, 2016.
To date, Canadians have donated $112 million to the Canadian Red Cross beforematching government funds. This is the largest donor response to a Canadian disaster, topping the $45 million donated for Alberta Floods in 2013. Donations will continue to rise, albeit at a slower pace. Charity Intelligence estimates total donations to the Canadian Red Cross (before matching donations) will reach $140 million – three times greater than support for the Alberta Floods.
This direct financial aid is unprecedented in Canadian disaster relief efforts. The Canadian Red Cross has paid out, and will pay out shortly, $75 million in direct cash payments to all Fort McMurray area evacuees. The evacuees in the Alberta Floods of 2013, Lac Megantic, and the Slave Lake Wildfire did not receive similar direct cash payments.
Direct cash payments are the evidence-based best way to help those hit by disaster get back on their feet. Direct cash payments treat all disaster victims equally and maintain their dignity. It is psychologically difficult for people who have been givers to charities suddenly to be receivers of charity. Providing cash lets each person freely meet his and her individual needs.
In addition, the Canadian Red Cross will provide transportation aid to help residents return to Fort McMurray. This includes chartered busses from Edmonton, Lac La Biche and Calgary, airplane tickets for residents from all points across Canada, and gas money for those driving cars, trucks and other vehicles. The Canadian Red Cross estimates this transportation aid will cost $15 million.
As evacuees return to Fort McMurray they will also receive the typical Canadian Red Cross support: each household will receive relief supplies (bucket, cleaning supplies, respirator mask, gloves, flashlight and batteries). The Canadian Red Cross has provided a list of these relief items that is far more extensive than relief supplies provided in previous disasters. Those with urgent needs will be individually assessed by the Canadian Red Cross for additional financial support for rent and mortgage payments, food, clothing, and household goods.
The Canadian Red Cross is helping Fort McMurray's businesses through covering all the costs of a hot line. This hotline will provide updates for Fort McMurray businesses and link them to resources to help with recovery issues. There will be a future survey that will help allocate resources.
Moving from disaster relief to recovery
In the transition from disaster relief to recovery, attention needs to be paid to counselling, child care and Fort McMurray’s local charities. Counselling is critical. The emotions of returning home, witnessing the destruction, survivor guilt for those with homes undamaged, and the job ahead is overwhelming. Sadly, domestic violence incidents historically spike in the first year following a Canadian disaster. Child care is also a critical service. Parents will be physically busy and emotionally drained. Having child care gives parents the time to recover.
Fort McMurray’s local charities update
Fort McMurray SPCA was one of 16 Alberta charities that worked tireless in the heroic rescue of 1,177 pets from Fort McMurray. It reports using up every available resource to provide health checks, veterinary care when needed, food and supplies for the evacuation of pets. Donations are desperately needed to help Fort McMurray SPCA recovery to support returning families.
Wood Buffalo Food Bank reports that all its non-canned food must be thrown out and, with the power out, its fridges and freezers must be emptied. A gruesome job. Albert food banks have rallied to Wood Buffalo Food Bank’s support. Replacement food is in Leduc to get the food bank up and operational. Wood Buffalo Food Bank hopes to start serving the community June 6, 2016.
Fort City Church’s parking lot is the operations base for Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelical Association of Canada. Samaritan’s Purse is living up to its reputation of “getting dirty and doing the heavy lifting” in disaster recovery. It is on call to help Fort McMurray residents carry fridges and freezers to the curb. Billy Graham has 6 disaster/crisis-trained counsellors available to provide counselling.
United Way Fort McMurray will receive the proceeds from the upcoming FireAid benefit concert in Edmonton on June 21st. To date, the United Way Fort McMurray has raised $280,000.
Conrad Suave, President and CEO of Canadian Red Cross, has met with United Way Fort McMurray and has assured it that it is considered a conduit for the money raised. Donations given to the Canadian Red Cross will be distributed to partner agencies in the Fort McMurray area in stages and likely over a number of years.
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