The Red Cross is administering up to $900 in initial funding to help assist Bella Coola Valley residents with any costs they may have incurred during last summer’s wildfire season.
“The initial $600 is for those that were impacted by evacuation alerts or orders. In this case it applies to the evacuation alerts and orders that were issued for the Tote Road and the Precipice areas in the Central Coast Regional District,” explained Adam Johnston, Red Cross Deputy Director for BC Wildfire Recovery. “These households are also eligible for an additional $300 in re-entry assistance to help with the costs of returning home.”
People in the Bella Coola region who live outside those evacuation areas can also access help from the Red Cross.
“Assistance is available to those who were impacted by road closures, such as closures on Highway 20,” said Johnston.
There has been some confusion about who qualifies and why, and Johnston acknowledged that the website does not clearly identify that road closures are grounds for financial assistance, despite the fact that road closures took place all over the province.
He also explained that the Red Cross’s main focus is to provide assistance to those affected in wildfire areas, and that these funds are intended to help offset costs individuals may have incurred as a result of the fires.
“If people require more assistance than the initial $900 there will be a further process with one of our case workers to determine their individual needs,” said Johnston. “There is more funding available and the Red Cross is there to provide assistance based on the needs of those affected.”
Johnston said the best way to obtain assistance is to call the Red Cross directly at 1-800-863-6582 or visit the website www.redcross.ca to register. You will be required to provide some identification to prove your address and a case worker will be assigned to you.
“We recognize that not everyone has access to the internet and we are working to resolve this,” said Johnston. “In the meantime we are encouraging everyone to register over the phone to get the process started.”
Johnston confirmed that the Red Cross has a total of $158M to support the wildfire recovery efforts in the province. $100M is provincial funding, $38.6M is federal funding, and $20M is donations from Canadians.
“The Red Cross is also administering support for small businesses, non-profits and more,” he said. “There are many other initiatives in progress as well that will be announced at a later date.”
Jessie MacDonald is the Wildfire Recovery Manager for the Central Coast Regional District and she is available to help individuals, small businesses, and non-profits with the process of acquiring assistance from the Red Cross. There are also several other resources available for mental health and wellness, community partnerships and tourism. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250 267 8621.