Canadians have generously donated more than $67 million to the Canadian Red Cross in support of Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees and those dollars will be matched by the federal government. Albertans’ donations will be matched by their provincial government.
The money has started to be distributed to evacuees; for starters each adult receives $600 and each child $300.
“This is the largest amount of financial assistance that we’ve been able to move this quickly to evacuees ever,” Nathan Huculak, deputy chief communications officer with the Canadian Red Cross, said.
“The generosity of Canadians is reflected in what we’re doing right now.”
Here’s a breakdown of where those dollars are going and how the money will be used.
Each and every person who has been evacuated is eligible for Red Cross support.
“Red Cross assistance is impartial. We make no discriminations for any reason. All who evacuated are eligible to register and receive assistance,” Huculak said.
Regardless of where in the community they lived or what income bracket they are in, every person can get support.
“This is not about the status of their physical house or any of that, this is to deal with their immediate needs.”
“We are not turning anyone away.”
To get the assistance, people must register, and can do so from other parts of Canada if they’ve left the province since fleeing the fires.
“They can register online, they can call in. And we’ve registered more than 80,000 people.”
Huculak said hundreds of volunteers in centres across the country have been working to handle the calls.
They’re pushing for everyone to give the Red Cross an email address, for both communication purposes and for the distribution of funds. The Red Cross is distributing money through e-transfers, so people can deposit the money directly into their bank accounts.
“The whole aim is to make it as simple as possible and accessible as possible for evacuees.”
The Red Cross is working with those without the ability to accept e-transfers to find a solution that works for them.
The money is earmarked for Fort McMurray and surrounding area evacuees.
The money donated to the Fort McMurray wildfire fund is allocated for just that. Right now the focus is on meeting people’s immediate needs; the next phase will be the rebuild.
“When Fort McMurray reopens and folks start to return home we will be there with them.”
“I think then we’ll have more time with clients to really understand what specific needs they have and what capacity they have to meet those needs and then where there’s unmet needs, we’ll be there to support that.”
The funds are not lumped in with the organization’s overall operating funding.
“It’s segregated into a separate fund, a trust fund,” Huculak said. “It’ll stay with those impacted people.”
All money donated for Fort McMurray is dedicated to the community; anything left after the rebuild will stay in the community to support other organizations or endeavors.
“We’ll be looking to identify projects…working at a community level.
“It’s not so much for the Red Cross to decide that, as much as it is for the community to help identify it. And we are there with them to see how we can support those things.”
Watch below: The first relief payments from the province and Red Cross came to evacuees of the Fort McMurray fire Wednesday. Gary Bobrovitz reports.