High River criticizes Disaster Recovery Program as 2013 flood claims still unresolved

The town of High River is calling on the provincial government to fix the Disaster Recovery Program before another major natural disaster strikes.

Town says there are systemic failings in the program meant to help after a natural disaster

Flooding in the High River area of Hampton Hills in 2013. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Nearly three years after the 2013 flood in High River, 219 claims and appeals within the town are still outstanding, and a new report is calling on the Alberta government to get a move on.

The report released by the Town of High River, titled "Finish the Job — Fix the System," urges the province to resolve those claims and fix what it identifies to be systemic failures in Alberta's disaster recovery program.

"Each claim affects a family's life. They want to have it wrapped up," said Jim Ross, chair of the Disaster Recovery Program Advocacy Committee.

"It's just time to have this complete and put it to rest."

"Our attention now has to be focused on speaking to the government about making fundamental changes to the program so that in the future, when Albertans are depending on it, they'll be treated much more fairly, sensitively, and faster," Ross said.

The report suggests that the provincial government's announcements in the early days after the flood misled claimants with promises of how the program would help them.

"The key point is that the province didn't make it clear exactly what to expect and what not to expect," Ross said. 

"It was all a bit too vague. Applicants thought that they were perhaps going to get more than they were realistically entitled to, and they were disappointed."

A call for a case worker approach

Ross said this report is just the latest in a long list of others that have pointed to similar deficiencies. 

"What we need is for our provincial government to take all this good information and integrate it into a rewritten disaster recovery program that will function much more efficiently and sensitively for Albertans that are depending on it," Ross said.

Ross wants to see the province adopt a case worker approach, where a single individual will be responsible for resolving each claim.

"Claimants have had to deal with multiple staff and tell their story over and over again," said Ross.

"It's really added frustration and the amount of time that it's taken to get things wrapped up."

The report calls on the government to resolve all claims by the third anniversary of the flooding, June 20, and to address all appeals by the end of 2016.

"That should be abundant time to complete that," Ross said.

The 2013 floods have been called the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history, prompting promises from the provincial and federal governments for swift action.

with files from The Canadian Press


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