Minden Hills looks toward disaster relief funding

By Mark Arike

It’s unknown at this time just how long it will take for the funds to start flowing in to Minden through the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP).

That’s just one piece of information Minden Hills councillors and members of the public gleaned from a presentation provided by Stephen Seller, a representative from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

“Municipalities should go through insurance first, because anything that’s insurable we won’t cover,” Seller told councillors at an April 25 council meeting. “Final payments are made to municipalities based on actual eligible costs.”

Seller explained that the township had 14 days from the time of the event to apply to ODRAP, which means the application is due May 9.

“I’d encourage you to use as much of that time as possible,” he said. “We want to get as good of a grip on the situation as we can.”

A portion of the township or all of it can be declared a disaster area by the minister for the purposes of ODRAP, said Seller. The reeve has the power declare a state of emergency.

The ODRAP program is “designed to assist municipalities, individuals, farmers, small business, and non-profit organizations get back on their feet after a natural disaster.”

“It’s intended to restore property back to pre-disaster condition and does not always provide full cost recovery for damages,” he said.

The program is divided into two components – public and private. The public component addresses costs incurred by the township, such as overtime hours and required supplies. The needs of homeowners, small business people, farmers and non-profit organizations fall under the private category. Eligible costs could include emergency evacuation and shelter, and structure damage.

On both sides, it’s council that has to make the request to the province.

“Individually, homeowners don’t apply to ODRAP, the municipality applies.”

A maximum of 90 per cent of eligible costs will be covered on the private side.

“Only essential, private property will be covered by ODRAP,” he explained. “That’s a hard message to deliver and a hard message to receive, but it’s what the program is based on.”

Only principle residences are covered under the program in the private category.

“Seasonal residences, cottages and such are not eligible under this program. It’s designed to help people who have lost the roof over their heads.”

The township must submit a preliminary estimate of the damages in order for the process to move forward.

“It’s preliminary and it’s an estimate. It’s not passed in stone. What we ask is please don’t pad it.”

Through ODRAP, receipts will be reviewed against program criteria before funds are reimbursed.

“If it’s above and beyond the township’s capacity to deal financially with it, you can ask for some advance funding.”

Receipts must be reviewed by the township’s auditor and the provincial auditor.

“At the end of the day, myself or one of my colleagues always has to sign on the dotted line to say that all of these costs are eligible. That’s a responsibility we take very seriously.”

Seller pointed out that on the private side, fundraising is an essential part of the program.

“To do that, council would be required to establish a disaster relief committee. These committees are made up of volunteers and they are appointed by council.”

He advised council think of five “movers and shakers” who could form the committee.

“The further we get away from the event the further things are from people’s minds.”

The province can provide funds in the amount of two-to-one for what the local committee is able to raise.

Seller said the township should give serious consideration to their needs and think about their available resources.

In a phone interview, Minden Hills Reeve Barb Reid said Linda Jeffries, minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, assured her that rough damage estimates can be adjusted after the application has been received.

“She understands the situation,” said Reid, adding that the township hasn’t yet been able to identify everyone affected by the flood.

Anyone seeking financial assistance through ODRAP is asked to register through the township office. A private property damage assessment form is available on the township’s website at www.mindenhills.ca.

For more information contact the finance department at admin@mindenhills.ca or call 705-286-1260.

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