Provincial disaster relief program activated for Rainy River District

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer
kkellar@fortfrances.com

Disaster relief has been made available to those in Fort Frances and the Rainy River District who have been fighting water since a string of spring storms contributed to record-high lake levels within the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods watersheds.

While the province initially opened up the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians (DRAO) program to those in Fort Frances on May 6, an additional announcement was made for the remainder of the Rainy River District and parts of the Kenora District on June 9. With this program activated, residents and business owners of the District can apply for assistance for their home, small business, farm or not-for-profit to potentially help cover the expenses incurred by floodwaters that aren’t otherwise covered by insurance. The most recent area of coverage extends from the town of Rainy River in the west, eastward to Atikokan and Ignace, and north to the Municipality of Red Lake.

Coinciding with the expanding of the DRAO coverage zone within the region, Brent Ross, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Solicitor General, said several different authorities within a region have the power to request assistance from the province.

“Municipalities, First Nation communities, local service boards, and other local authorities have the ability to request provincial assistance through Emergency Management Ontario (EMO),” Ross said in an email to the Times.

“EMO can work with local authorities, municipalities, and various provincial ministries as well as the federal government to coordinate emergency assistance efforts in the case of flooding. This assistance and other resources are tailored to local needs and do not require a declaration of emergency to access.”

A factsheet from the province notes that the DRAO is intended to cover damage caused by overland flooding, infiltration flooding and sump pump failures, and does not cover flooding related to sewer backups except under special provisions for low-income households.

Details differ slightly for the program between residences and businesses, and then again for those living within Fort Frances and those living elsewhere in the District. According to the Province, those eligible for DRAO assistance can receive reimbursement for clean-up expenses, costs to repair or replace essential property like furnaces or hot water tanks, and basic emergency expenses like evacuation travel costs, though there is an upper limit imposed on most of the items that are covered. Financial help from the DRAO is limited to $250,000 per application and is subject to a $500 deductible, which may be waived for low-income households. In total, the program reimburses up to 90 per cent of total eligible costs, with limits applying to emergency expenses, household appliances and furnishings.

For residents and tenants living within an affected area, the DRAO states that to be eligible for assistance, you must live within the activation area, and the affected property must be your primary residence. Wording in the eligibility list specifically excludes secondary residences like cottages or cabins, as well as investment properties, from coverage under the DRAO. Additionally floodwater must have entered the property in the ways previously mentioned above, and the resident or tenant must incur eligible expenses for essential costs such as cleanup, making necessary repairs and replacing basic contents.

“Refurbishing recreational basements, repairing outbuildings and restoring landscaping are not covered,” the province says.

For small business and farm owners, the eligibility for assistance under the DRAO requires the person applying to be the day-to-day manager and own at least half of the business, be dependent on the business income (providing at least 15 per cent of their net income), have no more than the equivalent of 20 full-time employees and have between $10,000 and $2,000,000 in gross revenue. Under the DRAO, these business and farm owners are eligible for coverage for emergency expenses, clean up and costs to repair or replace essential property, including replacing inventory or stock and equipment essential to the function of the business. Loss of revenue, wages or other business opportunity is not covered.

The application due dates differ slightly for the two different coverage regions as well. Those residents and business owners living within Fort Frances must submit their application by September 6, 2022, while those living elsewhere in the district must have their application submitted by October 7, 2022.

The province says that along with the application for the DRAO program, those applying should also submit supporting documents such as a letter from your insurance provider detailing the coverage, receipts or invoices for items and repairs you’ve already paid for, estimates or quotes for repairs that need to be done, records that show the number of hours spent on your emergency cleanup, photographs of damage done to your property, proof of residence through a driver’s license, Ontario photo card or other official document. Homeowners should also submit a copy of the most recent property tax bill, and those who qualify as a low-income household should submit a copy of the most recent notice of assessment from the Canada Revenue Agency for every adult in the household.

Ross said the EMO, under the Ministry, has been working closely with Fort Frances and its partner ministries to provide assistance to Fort Frances since the flooding began, and will continue to provide assistance where necessary.

“In the case of Fort Frances, EMO has been in constant contact with the municipality and has worked with partner ministries to mobilized additional resources to support sandbagging,” he said. “EMO continues to have an open dialogue with all impacted communities, and should any additional resources be requested we will work to support those requests.”

The application form and full list of eligibility and coverage limits or caps can be found on the province of Ontario website at www.ontario.ca/page/apply-disaster-recovery-assistance, and the complete guidelines for applying to the program can be found there or at www.ontario.ca/document/guidelines-apply-disaster-recovery-assistance-ontarians-drao. Anyone who is having trouble with applying for the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians program can contact 1-877-822-0116 or email disasterassistance@ontario.ca after speaking with their private insurance.