The Alberta Party in Highwood is concerned that little movement forward is being made on closing cases in the Disaster Recovery Program, and Saturday’s announcement does little to assure them they are wrong.
“Parts of Saturday’s announcement by Mr. Prentice sounded like an echo,” said member Joel Windsor. “We’ve heard it all before.”
Windsor pointed out that a government release on September 26, 2014 indicated that Prentice was aiming to triple staffing to the beleaguered DRP program, as at that time just over 8000 of the original 10500 applications had been closed.
In Saturday’s announcement, Prentice indicated that just over 8400 of the original cases had been closed.
“With a tripling of staff, we would have hoped more than 400 additional cases would have been closed in 4 months,” said Windsor.
Windsor is also concerned that initial remediation efforts, namely in the Hampton Hills community, were wasted dollars as many homes there are experiencing a regrowth of mold.
“Either something wasn’t done properly the first time, or nothing could have been done properly the first time even if they wanted to,” said Windsor. “Now homeowners are suffering for it.”
“If homeowners remediate again, or even if they rebuild, they shouldn’t have to go out of pocket for a dime, because the job wasn’t done properly the first time.”
The party is very pleased with some adjustments in how people can begin their rebuild, namely the increase in the initial payout from 50% to 90% of remediation costs.
“Providing more money up front will help those in need of remediation or rebuild get the work done faster, and not force them to depend on hard-earned savings just to get back on their feet.”
DRP applicants who have already received the 50% are encouraged those to contact the DRP to obtain the additional 40% to help them recover more quickly.
On January 13, 2015, Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark also called on Prentice to be more proactive in getting cases closed rather than waiting for applicants who may not have even been aware their cases were in limbo. The Alberta Party in Highwood believes this call has been heard and answered, and that a grant that will fund 7 additional case workers through the Town of High River will enable that proactivity on a local level.
“The local advocates, namely the Town and the Disaster Recovery Program Advocacy Committee, have been tireless in their efforts to get this rebuild done in a fair and equitable manner. Having case workers here in town will maximize their interaction with these advocates, and get people home sooner.”
The Alberta Party in Highwood intends to keep a close eye on the remaining DRP files, and ensure the government keeps their deadline promise this time.
“With 2000 case files still open, that’s 400 per month; 4 times faster than they did trying to keep their last promise,” said Windsor. “With the new total of case workers being 30, that goal is far more accessible, and we will be looking to see it’s met.”