Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne (r) meets with Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth. (Photo credit: Andrea DeMeer/<em>Princeton-Similkameen Spotlight</em>)

Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne (r) meets with Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth. (Photo credit: Andrea DeMeer/Princeton-Similkameen Spotlight)

Disaster Financial Assistance changes will help local governments

Municipalities will pay less for clean-up and repairs, get up front help with costs

The province has announced changes to its Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) program, which will mean that municipalities faced with massive clean-up and repair bills after an emergency or disaster will not be on the hook for as much of the cost.

In the past, qualifying applicants had to pay for 20 per cent of the cost of eligible expenses, while the province paid the remaining 80 per cent. Going forward, the province will be picking up more local government costs for necessary infrastructure repairs, with the local portion capped at five to 10 per cent rather than 20.

Small municipalities in particular have complained in the past that they did not have the tax base to support the required contribution after even a relatively small event.

However, the atmospheric river that hit B.C. in November 2021 has left many communities reeling, and facing clean-up and rebuilding costs in the tens of millions of dollars.

The town of Princeton already has claims for $20 million in clean-up expenses after last year’s flooding, and that total is likely to increase. The new funding formula is expected to save Princeton at least $2 million.

“It’s a good day,” said Mayor Spencer Coyne when the change was announced last month. “I believe the province heard us. They heard the municipalities. They heard that we are not capable of being able to fund the amount of money that this disaster has cost us. They are going to help us through that.”

The province also announced that some funds will be provided up front to do work, rather than requiring municipalities to complete projects before applying. Following last year’s flooding, Princeton needed to advance $1.4 million to a contractor, in order to restore water service to the north side of town, then submit receipts when the project was complete and wait to be refunded.

Farms, businesses, and rental unit owners can also benefit from the new regulations, and the DFA program has been reopened until July 27 for applications from people affected by the flooding.

“The catastrophic flooding in November 2021 highlighted the limitations of our Disaster Financial Assistance program, and given the scale of the disaster, we need to make changes quickly,” Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said on April 28.

“These changes will help ensure people, First Nations, and local governments impacted by severe flooding aren’t facing insurmountable costs, and will improve the program so we can respond faster next time and provide more support to those impacted.”

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