Police direct traffic during evacuation of Williams Lake as wildfires threatened access highways, July 2017. (Black Press files)

B.C. Red Cross offers more wildfire assistance to business

Local MLAs say the program is too slow, not suitable for remote people

The B.C. government has launched its second phase of recovery funds for small businesses affected by the record area of the B.C. Interior burned by wildfires this summer.

The latest financial assistance provides up to $18,500 for eligible businesses and $8,500 not-for-profit organizations. The first phase provided $1,500 for each eligible applicant and received 2,900 applications.

Eligibility information for the next phase is available at the Canadian Red Cross website along with application forms. Applications will be accepted until April 6, 2018.

Financial assistance is designed to at least partially compensate businesses for uninsured losses, insurance deductibles, minor repairs, cleanup, equipment and occupational training expenses. The Red Cross decides on the eligible amount for each application.

“Although the emergency phase of the wildfires has passed, the road to recovery can be long,” said Kimberley Nemrava, Red Cross vice-president for B.C. and Yukon. 

MLAs from the affected areas said the effort so far has been too little and too late.

Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes said she has business owners in her constituency who applied for the first phase as early as Aug. 12 and didn’t receive assistance until October. Making people apply for the second phase and going case by case is impractical in many cases, she said.

“We’ve been travelling out in the remote areas,” Oakes said. “You have no cell service. Local phones aren’t hooked up. You don’t have power. You don’t have water. People are just trying to get on with their lives.”

RELATED: Ottawa adds ‘kick in guts’ for wildfire victims

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett said families with sick children in remote areas have not been helped. Businesses include guide-outfitters and trappers, and “many don’t fit in the box.”

Donaldson said cases that don’t meet the criteria for assistance are being reviewed case by case, but Barnett was not encouraged.

“We go home every weekend and this is what we talk about,” Barnett said. “We’ve got people who are trying to help one another as best they can. The only thing that’s going to help them is some funding to get their lives back in order.”


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