The Boundary Flood Recovery Public Update for Dec 13 took place at the River Valley Community Church at 6PM.
One week after Parliamentary Secretary Rice came to town to announce the support program for Small Business and Non-Profits the Red Cross held an information session about it. This was late in the afternoon / early in the evening of the same day as city council so my attendance was not possible. But I was able to get someone to take one of my cameras down and record it.
Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness Jennifer Rice came to Grand Forks the morning of Dec 3, 2018. She came bearing bags of cash (figuratively speaking of course) for small businesses in the Boundary that were affected by the spring flood.
How much cash?
How much for you?
If you have a business affected by the flood and have 50 or less employees and “some other factors” (?) then that translates into possibly as much as $18,500. Which sounds close to what businesses in areas affected by Wildfire got last summer. More on all this after the video.
All this money is being funneled through the Red Cross. At 9 minutes into the video they point you to redcross.ca/gethelp which shows you a selection of current projects. Then you have to find the section for Grand Forks and click on it and that takes you to British Columbia Floods 2018 and on that page you’ll find a link to the Support to Small Businesses and Not-for-Profit Organizations.
Watch and listen and learn.
WARNING – RAMPANT EDITORIALIZING AFTER THIS POINT
The Flood that hit us last spring was of historic proportion. And not something the province has experience dealing with . . . which added to our pain and suffering because help was hamstrung by data acquisition, reporting, analyzing and deliberating so that a plan could be implemented.
The disaster that the province has to deal with on a regular, yearly, basis is wildfire. So they have plans for how to deal with people and businesses experiencing wildfire emergencies and their needs both immediate and in the aftermath. You can see that in the Red Cross page “Support to Small Businesses, Not-for-Profit Organizations and First Nations Cultural Livelihoods” created for that purpose. Now the wildfire problems for the year are behind us and the program is not taking any more applications. But to see how much businesses got you can look at the FAQ where it says that they get up to $18,500. Coincidentally the same number announced in the program today.
Before you read on I must say that I do not really intend to bite the hand that helps (you seem like a nice person Secretary Rice and this isn’t personal) . . . but I really feel the need to point out some aspects of reality.
What happens with a Wild Fire?
As far as I know businesses evacuated by wildfire were considered to be off premises for up to two weeks. That’s 2 weeks of lost income at a minimum.
Now if their property was scorched it’s a fire loss / rebuild / restock project. And insurance should help out. Maybe even DFA.
But for businesses not burned the total down time could be as short as the evacuation time. 2 weeks. And then they get to reopen and resume business as best they can.
Let’s look at what happens with a Flood.
Many businesses in Grand Forks evacuated by flooding are still out of their premises 6 months later. Downtown businesses as well. 6 months.
Last month when a couple of them reopened I asked them how much revenue they estimated they had lost being evacuated. One said $100,000. Their neighbour said $500,000.
Until today’s announcement all the businesses have received so far is $1,500. Almost no businesses qualified for DFA. Many got screwed by their insurance providers.
For the past few months one of the messages from the recovery team is that most of the pleas for help to higher levels of government result in requests for ‘more data’. More data so that those trying to analyse the complex problem can come up with a workable plan. So we sent them more data. And then more data.
And now that the temperature is dipping below zero and snow is beginning to fall and people (and businesses) are still out of their premises making do and decisions need to be made the province sends a parliamentary secretary down with a plan that sure looks like a cookie cutter copy of what they were doing months ago for the wildfire affected entities . . . so much for all that data.
This means that the Province has taken 6 months to decide to give us what they were giving to wildfire victims 6 months ago. After they have been told again and again (we hope) what the reality of the situation is out here in flood disaster world and how it differs from Wildfire disaster world (which we are candidates for on any hot, dry, summer)
So really . . . WTF were they doing for the past 6 months?
I really don’t want to be a crass a-hole and I am grateful for whatever help they can give but when I stand back and look at this I’m left wondering what I’m missing here?
IF I’m missing something then I unreservedly apologize to Secretary Rice and the Province.
But . . . if that’s the extent of the provincial support flood victims will be getting in the future I would strongly suggest potential flood target communities start putting their own fund together. It shouldn’t be too hard or take too long to make it larger than what the province is offering if you just keep feeding it. But that’s just my crazy take on things.
Nov 21 the Boundary Flood Recovery Team had another public Update meeting at GFSS. This time it was in the open space adjacent to the quad.
About 75 people were there in total. Mayor Taylor and Director Russell were present.
Was there news?
Of course there was news.
Was it what we wanted to hear?
Not all of it, no.
But knowing some progress is being made and work is being done is better than not knowing.
Some of the Asks have borne fruit – Darren Pratt introduced 5 newly hired case workers. It’s the result of an ask that went in months ago . . . part of their job will be to go out and get updates from all of you affected by the flood.
The fruit of other Asks is bitter-sweet: The Federal government’s strictures prevent them from funding the raising of individual houses. They also restrict any funds going towards buyouts to ‘current value’ only. Do not take that as the final and complete word on the buyouts because the Province and the City also have to chip in (though the city’s portion might be more along the lines of here’s some land and maybe some help moving your house if that’s possible). We don’t know what the Province’s stand on this is yet. Plus a professional assessment firm has been hired to do new assessments on all the flood affected properties. When it comes to deciding which value to use there will be hopefully a choice for them in there. So don’t give up hope.
That last throws a different complexion on the buyout plan. And changes or challenges to one part of the plans for the future will possibly affect other plans.
A major point of contention is the way government does things. IF the government has had to deal with an issue before they may have developed a plan so that when it comes up in the future mechanisms are in place and everyone knows what to do. And what resources they can draw upon to execute the plan.
If Grand Forks had been in New Brunswick we’d be much further along in some ways because flooding is a problem they have experience with. Unfortunately we are in BC which has no plans for how to deal with post flood recovery and the multiple and inter-related issues facing those who have to lead recovery efforts. And in order for the province to release funds and resources they apparently need Data. Lots and lots of Data. And they take their time . . . but then they aren’t the ones facing a cold winter in a camper. Or running their business out of their homes. Or making do with their Child Allowance cheques. While making payments on mortgages and insurance for buildings they are not occupying.
And when it comes to any help for the businesses affected by this – the province cannot give money directly to businesses. They can, and are, giving money to fund positions such as Economic Development Officer and Events Coordinator / Marketing person. While this may buoy the spirits of those in the economic development community it really ticks off those businesses that have lost tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars due to being evacuated from their locations. But those are the rules and regs the provincial officials have to operate under.
Graham Watt, the recovery manager, described it as akin to the game of Snakes and Ladders. You make progress along a path in the plan and get to a point where you run into a wrinkle or block you didn’t know was there. And that sets you back a stage or two as you try to find another way to achieve your goal.
All the while the weather gets colder, people’s resources and spirits get more depleted. And Victoria asks for more data . . .