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Cabinet approves emergency financial aid for Fort McMurray area evacuees

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By Shari Narine Sweetgrass Contributing Editor EDMONTON







May 6, 2016.

Evacuees from Fort McMurray and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo can expect to get funding by the middle of next week.

Premier Rachel Notley announced today that Cabinet authorized emergency financial assistance on par with what was done for Slave Lake evacuees in 2011 and southern Alberta flood victims in 2013. Adults will receive $1,250 each and dependents will receive $500.

“We’re just working out the details of the delivery and the timing. As I’ve said I’m hoping that we have that available to evacuees, especially those who are most in need, by mid-next week,” she said.

Notley expects the total price tag for immediate compensation for the approximately 80,000 evacuees to hit $100 million.

Shelter is also a concern, she said, noting that reception centres are only for short term accommodations.

To deal with the immediate need, the City of Calgary opened a second reception centre this morning for evacuees. Those arriving in Calgary now can stay at Ambrose University and College or at SAIT. Currently, there are approximately 450 evacuees staying in Calgary’s reception centres and that number is expected to grow throughout the day as more evacuees arrive. In a news release, the city said it will open additional reception centres as required.

In Edmonton, the Northlands EXPO Centre is housing evacuees. University of Alberta President David H. Turpin said UAlberta has activated its emergency operations centre to coordinate its response and accept evacuees on campus if requested to do so by the province.

Seven thousand evacuees came to Calgary and Edmonton yesterday through air transportation. Another 5,500 are expected to arrive by air today and 15,000 through ground transport. Vehicle convoys are being escorted by the RCMP through Fort McMurray. These are evacuees who fled north of Fort McMurray when the evacuation notice was given on Tuesday.

To date, nearly 14,000 households have registered with Red Cross, said Notley. Evacuees can register online or at the reception centres.

“Our hope is that the immediate crisis will be under control as soon as possible,” she said. “We will then be turning to securing the city, making it safe and beginning reconstruction…. The city of Fort McMurray is not safe to return to and this will be true for a significant period of time, so the townsite is going to be secured and protected by the RCMP.”