B.C. boosts 2018 wildfire recovery aid by $10 million

Government saw error in its ways after funding shortfall, RDBN chair says.

The British Columbia government has allocated an additional $10 million in support for communities recovering from last summer’s wildfires.

The funds will be distributed through the Red Cross, B.C.’s Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General and Emergency Management BC said Nov. 13 in a news release.

“While the fires are now out, British Columbians can rest assured that government support will be sustained,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and the Solicitor General.

The boost in funding will be used for recovery efforts including health and wellness, alternative heating sources (e.g. firewood), refrigerator and freezer replacement and reconstruction related to uninsured damage.

“Assistance will be determined on a case-by-case basis” and the funding priority will target “individuals and families who are most vulnerable,” the release added.

The announcement is “definitely a step in the right direction,” Bill Miller, Chairman of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako told Lakes District News on Nov. 13.

Miller’s response to the funding announcement follows his criticism of the lower level of support offered in 2018 compared to the support given last year, in a letter he wrote to the government and the Red Cross.

In his letter on Oct. 25, Miller pointed out that aid this year came to about $2 million, far less than the $162 million which was provided in 2017.

Many residents in the Bulkley-Nechako region – which was heavily affected by wildfires – were struggling with recovery, and as he explained to Lakes District News, the lower funding amount made it seem as if the people were second-class citizens.

With the new increase in funding, “hopefully that will mean that some of these [recovery] programs that were given out last year will have an opportunity to be given out this year. They certainly came up short this year.”

Of the $2 million previously allocated for recovery, more than half came from donations given to the Red Cross.

“I have to say, the Red Cross was speaking with the government too. I guess the joint pressure made them see the error in their ways,” he said.

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