High River residents say flood money not flowing fast enough

Thirty-eight million dollars has been raised in the 100 days since floodwaters swept through southern Alberta, but some residents hardest hit by the disaster say the relief money isn’t flowing fast enough.

Red Cross and Calgary Foundation have spent less than 40% of $38M raised

The story we tell years from now about how we responded to the COVID-19 crisis is the story each of us is writing today. Let's make it a story of coming together and looking after each other, like we did during the flood. (Cameron MacIntosh/CBC)

Thirty-eight million dollars has been raised in the 100 days since floodwaters swept through southern Alberta, but some residents hardest hit by the disaster say the money isn’t flowing fast enough.

The Red Cross says it has raised $32 million and handed out $12 million. Funds have helped flood victims pay for groceries, child care and new work clothing, said spokeswoman Sue Phillips.

High River was one of the hardest hit communities in the 2013 Alberta floods. (Erin Collins/CBC)

The Calgary Foundation has spent just five per cent — or $300,000 — of the $6 million it raised. The foundation’s goal is long-term relief and that takes planning, said spokeswoman Kerry Longpre.

“What we really felt we needed to do is consult and have conversations with many organizations, including the Red Cross, to make sure that we're not overlapping,” she said.

The foundation is also putting together rules for non-profit groups who want to access the money. The criteria and timeline for distributing money to victims should be available soon.

Hairstylist Deanna Green, whose salon in downtown High River was destroyed in the floods, said she doesn’t think the relief money is being doled out quickly enough.

"We need it now. We needed it yesterday. We needed it 100 days ago,” she said. “I think when people donate to something they think it's going to be there right now to help."

Flood symposium 

Green said she was upset to hear about the foundation's decision to use $50,000 to fly flood experts to the University of Calgary for a symposium.

She worries that if donors don’t see their money spent wisely, they’ll think twice about giving in the future.

"I don't know if symposiums fix anything,” she said.

“I don't know if that's what the donated money should be used for. I think it should be used for feeding us and housing us.”

Joanne MacDonald, whose High River basement flooded in June, also isn’t happy about how the money is being allocated.

"They need to be a little bit wiser about how it's spent and who it's going to,” she said.

Nancy Pollock-Ellwand, the dean of the faculty of environmental design at the University of Calgary, defended the grant for the symposium.

"For us to invest some of that money towards bringing experts to our community to talk about the lessons that can be learned is something that I think is really appropriate for the use of that money,” she said.

'It will take time'

Longpre says the Calgary Foundation also feels symposium was a good investment. 

“We hear it all the time," she said.

"Are we prepared for next time?”

Neighbour Link, an organization that normally supplies basic needs for low-income people but now provides flood relief, has received $77,000 from the Calgary Foundation.

Eight other agencies received money from the foundation, including the Boys and Girls Club in Black Diamond. The money will be used to run some programs for children in High River, said the organization's executive director Shirley Puttock.

An expert in non-profit studies said the timeline for donations being distributed is not unusual. Peter Elson says flood recovery takes time and planning.

"Patience isn't necessarily easy, but it will take time. I think if we're still answering these questions a year from now, then say 'What is going on?' But 100 days is really a blink, in the sense of coming to terms with this kind of event.”


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