The Canadian Red Cross will soon start providing emergency funds of $600 per adult and $300 per child from the millions raised so far for Fort McMurray, Alta., residents forced from their homes by the wildfire.
The funds will be transferred electronically, within the next 24 to 48 hours, to individuals who have already registered with the Red Cross. The transfers represent $50 million of the $67 million donated by Canadians.
Red Cross chief executive Conrad Sauve said this is first phase of helping evacuees. More funds will be provided down the road.
"This is the most important cash transfer we have done in our history and the fastest one," he said.
Details on debit cards from Alberta government
- Edmonton: Butterdome at the University of Alberta
- Calgary: McMahon Stadium, Red and White Club
- Calgary: BMO Centre at Calgary Stampede Park
- People can call 310 4455 or 1 844 406 3276 outside of Alberta if they can't get a card in person
- Butterdome: May 11 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., May 12-19 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., May 20 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
- Both Calgary locations: May 11 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., May 12-19 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., May 20 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
- Bold Centre Lac La Biche; May 11 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., May 12-13 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Premier Rachel Notley also announced pre-loaded debit cards with $1,250 for adults and $500 for children will be available at 2 p.m. today in Edmonton at the University of Alberta's Butterdome, at the Bold Centre in Lac la Biche. and in two locations in Calgary: Red and White Club at McMahon Stadium and BMO Centre at Calgary Stampede Park
The province will make the cards available at other locations in the coming days. Notley said officials are working "furiously" to get a second location open in Edmonton.
The premier urged people who don't need the funds right away to wait a day or so to allow people who are most in need of help.
"There are enough debit cards for every evacuee," Notley said.
More than 80,000 evacuees have registered with the Red Cross. People who haven't yet registered can still do so, Sauve said. Anyone who doesn't have access to electronic banking can get their money through vouchers, money orders or cash cards.
"If you are eligible, we will support you as well," Sauve said.
Initial estimates said Canadians had donated $60 million to help evacuees, but the figure is $67 million. And more money will come from matching funds provided by the federal government. The Alberta government will match donations from Albertans.
"It's the largest domestic appeal in our history to date," said Jenn McManus, vice-president Red Cross, Alberta and Northwest Territories division.
More than 700 Red Cross staff and trained volunteers from across Canada are in Alberta to help evacuees at shelters, with registration, family reunification and to help meet urgent, basic needs, McManus said.
The Red Cross is working alongside emergency preparedness staff with the City of Edmonton, in Calgary and in Lac La Biche, she added.
Some evacuees have been frustrated that the Alberta government won't have a timeline for a return to Fort McMurray for another 10 days.
Notley said officials need to fully evaluate the soundness of the city's infrastructure before lifting the evacuation order. She understands people are anxious to return home, but says she thinks it would be harder on them emotionally to give them a date.
"I don't want to give them a definite timeline, have them build their hopes around that definite timeline, and then discover an infrastructure deficit that we didn't previously know about that delays things by a week or two."