Relief may soon be on its way for Hamilton residents who lost food during the lengthy power outage following the ice storm, as the province is finalizing the details on how to bring the grocery store gift card program to Hamilton and other impacted municipalities.
The Mayor's Office was in contact with the Premier's Office on Tuesday to discuss the delivery of the food replacement program that distributes grocery store gift cards worth $100 to eligible families to replace spoiled food.
“The Premier confirmed that where needs are identified it will not be a matter of 'if' Hamilton will participate, but 'how' it will be rolled out, and 'how much' aid would be required,” Mayor Bob Bratina said in a press release on Tuesday.
- Hamilton wants in on ice storm gift card program
- City calculating how much ice storm cleanup will cost
The province is asking impacted municipalities to provide the scope and magnitude of the assistance that may be required, Bratina said. City staff will gather information and work with the province to determine the details of the program.
As a general guideline, the gift cards will be directed to those homes that were without power for 48 hours or longer, Bratina added.
About 35,000 Hamilton homes lost power last weekend after an ice storm blanketed much of Central and Eastern Canada. Some hydro customers, such as those in parts of Glanbrook and Ancaster, were without power for days.
The gift cards are already being distributed in Greater Toronto through Ontario Works offices, but the program got off to a bumpy start on Tuesday. Many offices ran out of the cards before noon, sending people home empty-handed after waiting in long lineups.
So far, the following retailers have stepped forward with $25,000 donations each.
- Shoppers Drug Mart.
Coppas Fresh Market has also donated $5,000 in gift cards.
Ontario government will also match corporate donations up to a maximum of $100,000, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Monday.
Meanwhile, Coun. Sam Merulla will introduce a motion at a Jan. 15 general issues committee to ask for disaster relief money for the city. He also wants the city to investigate how to reduce power outages.
In some European jurisdictions, he said, law dictates that power cannot be out for more than six hours without a penalty to utility companies.
The power goes out too often, the Ward 4 councillor said.
“The status quo can’t prevail,” he said. “The power goes off far too often now. It’s becoming far more prevalent.”