Changes to ODRAP: what you need to know
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | May 11, 2017
Right about now, residents of Minden Hills and other county municipalities are just trying to keep their houses from flooding.
Soon, however, people and townships will start to think about the cost of this latest natural disaster.
Saturday’s declaration of a state of emergency means people can apply for financial assistance through the province.
The Township of Minden Hills has been here before, applying for Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP) funding following the 2013 flood. And, like most Ontario municipalities, they found the process very cumbersome and lengthy.
Municipalities asked for a review of the ODRAP program and changes were announced on March 1, 2016 that the public should know about.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH), which handles the portfolio on behalf of the province, announced the creation of two new disaster relief programs that are now in effect: the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians (DRAO) and the Municipal Disaster Recovery Assistance (MDRA) program.
Both programs apply when sudden and unexpected natural disasters occur with costly impacts. Examples include tornados, ice storms, and severe weather events causing flooding, to name a few.
The programs will cover eligible essential basic costs connected to disaster response and recovery but are not intended to replace insurance.
With the DRAO, the MMAH continuously monitors the province for natural disasters. Once it is made aware of an event, it mobilizes a team which includes MMAH staff, Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal and Emergency Management staff specialized in disaster management, and private adjusters, to name a few, to get first-hand information on the event.
Based on their findings, the minister will make the decision to activate DRAO. From this point, affected private sector individuals such as homeowners, small owner-operated businesses, small owner-operated farms and not-for-profit agencies can start filing claims.
Only costs over any amount covered by insurance can be submitted and people have 120 days from the incident to submit claims, at which time the minister will review and issue a decision.
The MDRA is basically handled the same way, but applies to the municipalities themselves.
What’s new in the revised programs is that the MMAH visits the affected area; the deadline for submission of claims has been extended from 14 days to 120 days; claims are processed by professional adjusters; there is no longer a need for disaster relief committees; no fundraising is required; payments for claims are made directly from the province instead of from the disaster relief committee; and payout of eligible expenses is at 90 per cent of the claim as opposed to the province paying $2 for every $1 raised.
In the case of municipalities, they must include a resolution from council requesting assistance and provide detailed supporting documentation. Eligible costs must be incremental costs over day-to-day operations that can be demonstrably linked to the event.
The eligible costs are divided into operating and capital costs. Operating costs are special measures taken to protect the public’s health, safety and access to essential services. Capital are expenditures typically incurred to restore essential municipal assets such as infrastructure and public facilities to pre-disaster conditions. Costs to improve property and infrastructure beyond pre-disaster conditions are ineligible.
In the case of municipalities, eligible costs must be greater than or equal to three per cent of the municipality’s own purpose taxation (OPT) levy (this was four per cent in the old program); eligible costs meeting the OPT threshold are paid based on a cost-sharing formula. For costs up to three per cent of OPT: the province pays 75 per cent and the municipality pays 25 per cent. For costs beyond three per cent OPT: the province pays 95 per cent and the municipality pays five percent. When submitting costs, future estimated costs can be included which will be reconciled when complete.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.