Burlington Flood Relief: The need, how you can help and where the money goes

Global News Burlington Flood

This Global News video helps tell the devastation our neighbours are facing.

Imagine you are sitting comfortably in your home listening to the rain fall, and very quickly your basement fills up with water and raw sewage. There’s a knock at the door. It’s emergency personnel – the power has to be cut – electricity and water don’t mix. Your heating and cooling systems don’t work – they are filled with water and waste. Your home, your shelter, your place of refuge is now a disaster zone – contaminated, dangerous, uninhabitable. You have to leave.

The loss of shelter – of one’s home – is a loss of one of our most basic human needs. Yet this exact situation happened to a family in Burlington after last week’s rainstorm.

Burlington was hit with a devastating flood that affected a swath of close to 2,000 residents in the city from the northwest corner through to the southeast. Many of you may have been on holiday and don’t know that it happened; Most of us were spared any damage. But many of our friends and neighbours elsewhere in the city have had their homes turned into disaster areas, some of them unliveable until they are gutted and cleaned, with power and heating restored.

Some residents have tried to manage the cleanup themselves, but have been overwhelmed by the task and are seeking help from professional hazardous waste companies, the city, friends and neighbours, anyone who can lend a hand.

Most of the items in this Regal resident's basement were destroyed by water/sewage and have had to be thrown out.

Most of the items in this Regal resident’s basement were destroyed by water/sewage and have had to be thrown out.

That’s where we come in.

There are several ways you can get involved, including donating time, money, or some other good or service. Each of these are detailed below – as well as assurances that your donations will go directly to people in need and only for essential items.

Booth at Saturdays in the Street/Fit in the Core:

You can also stop by Saturdays in the Street, this Saturday Aug. 16  from 3-5:30 on Elgin and Brant St., and Fit in the Core, Sunday Aug. 17 in Civic Square. I’m organizing a flood relief booth in cooperation with the Burlington Downtown Business Association, the sponsor of both these events. The United Way of Burlington & Greater Hamilton, Samaritan’s Purse, Burlington Professional Firefighters Association and city staff are also lending a hand to provide information about the disaster and how you can get involved. Drop by to learn more about the need and how you can help. I’ll be on hand to answer any questions you may have about the flood, the city’s role, and the protocols put in place to ensure any donations get to the people who need it most, and only for essential items. We’ll have donation forms and volunteer sign up sheets as well as information on how else you can get involved.

At the Children’s Festival, Saturday & Sunday:

I’m also working with the city to make information about the flood available during the Children’s Festival, which runs from 10-6 this Saturday in Beachway Park, and from 10-6 on Sunday in Spencer Smith Park. I’ll be attending both days to provide information and answer questions. Drop by, learn more and contribute what you can.

My Take: The need is real, and the solution starts with us. Burlington residents are generous; I’ve seen that time and again, especially in the recent ice storm. Many residents who got power back quickly contacted me to offer help for people still without power. Crisis brings a community together. Over the years I’ve met countless residents who see a need in our community and say “I can do something about that” and step up. You have donated your time, money, service or expertise to our city. That spirit of “I can do something” binds us together, keeps us strong, and makes our community a place where people pitch in to make Burlington better.

Because of this flood, some of our residents have experienced a crisis of devastating proportions. Those of us who were spared flooding have the ability to help our friends and neighbours, fellow residents, elsewhere in the city who have had their shelter, and their homes, severely damaged or taken from them in this flood.

Everyone has something to give. Anything you can give will be valuable and gratefully received. We can do this – together.

Quick links about how to volunteer, donate or offer some other good or service are below, followed by a detailed description and Q&A about how the funding works, and how you’ll know it goes directly to those most in need, for essential items only.

How You Can Help

Donate to the United Way

Donate to the United Way

Volunteer: Burlington Professional Firefighters Association – Flood Assistance or by phone with Samaritan’s Purse, 905.592.1874

Donate: United Way of Burlington & Greater Hamilton – Burlington Flood Relief

Offer another good/service: City of Burlington – Community Bulletin Board

Provincial Disaster Relief Funding – it starts with us

The city is appealing to the province for disaster relief funding under the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program, to secure provincial money for private homeowners to make their homes habitable again. But to qualify, we need the community to step up first. The province will match, up to two to one, every dollar raised in the community. The money can only be used “to provide the necessities of life” to help those impacted by a natural disaster get back on their feet when the need is more than the municipality or community can meet on our own. The province will reimburse up to 90% of eligible costs. The United Way of Burlington & Greater Hamilton has established a fund to collect donations from the community. Details are below. Already more than $74,000 has been raised.

The city cannot contribute to this fund, so it’s up to all of us to use our contributions to leverage provincial funding.

The city is also asking the province for public funding to repair city infrastructure damaged in the flood. The request for both private and public funding requires a resolution by council, which will be voted on at a special council meeting Thursday Aug. 14. The Region of Halton has issued a letter of support for this request. Once the province receives our request, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Honourable Ted McMeekin, must declare Burlington a “disaster area” to receive ODRAP funding. We are awaiting a decision from the province.

But the donations that have already come in and continue to come in help communicate to the province that Burlington residents are ready and willing to help, and want the province to come to the table too. Our local MPP Eleanor McMahon, and Hon. Ted McMeekin have visited the area, seen the devastation and are great advocates for us.

Donating Money:

The United Way of Burlington & Greater Hamilton has established a fund to collect donations from the community. When you donate, designate your contribution to “Burlington Flood”. 100% of dollars collected will go directly to residents affected by the flood for essential items only, as detailed below.

Donate here: United Way of Burlington & Greater Hamilton – Burlington Flood Relief

Where does the money go?

The  province has strict rules for disaster relief funding. ODRAP is intended to ease the hardship suffered by private homeowners or businesses/organizations whose essential property has been damaged in a sudden and unexpected disaster, such as a flood. The program provides funds only for essential items such as shelter and the “necessities of life.”

In the Burlington flood situation, those essential items could include restoring heat, power and water service, and cleaning up contaminated areas to make a home habitable again.  The funding would allowing our residents to return to their homes and their shelter.

Who decides who gets what?

The province requires that an independent disaster relief committee be established to raise money and oversee who gets what, how much, and for what costs. The Burlington Community Foundation and the United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton are in the process of setting up that committee with local community leaders. In order to ensure arms’ length, impartial distribution of funds, provincial rules stipulate that the committee be independent from city council, and no one affected by the flood can be on the committee, nor can any politicians. Depending on the severity of the disaster, the committee may operate for a period of several months or for up to one year or more, in order to receive and settle all claims.

In some instances, victims of a natural disaster may suffer extreme financial hardship because of losses and expenses which do not qualify for assistance under ODRAP and for which other sources of assistance are unavailable or inadequate. The disaster relief committee may provide additional financial assistance in these cases, but must first establish a  sub-committee with provincial representation to handle these extreme cases.

The Region of Halton and the Red Cross are visiting homes directly affected by the flood to assess the damages and needs.

How do I know my money will get to the people who need it?

When you make a donation through the United Way, specify it is for Burlington flood relief. Canada Revenue Agency has strict rules that any “designated” funds be spent ONLY on what donors designated them for. The United Way will report to the community how much has been raised; 100% of donations for flood relief will flow to the independent disaster relief committee for disbursement directly to residents affected by the flood, according to provincial rules that it go toward essential items and necessities of life.

Doesn’t insurance cover this?

Residents are expected to draw on their own insurance first. For some homeowners, insurance will be inadequate to restore the damage. In other cases, residents have no insurance because they’ve been denied insurance due to repeated instances of flooding. Only uninsured damages within the declared disaster area are eligible for ODRAP funding.

The city is undertaking a detailed review of why repeated flooding continues to occur in some areas of Burlington, and our staff will bring recommendations back to city council for any required infrastructure needs.

 I can’t give money; can I help in some other way?

Yes! Consider volunteering some time to cleanup efforts, or donating another good and service. Here’s how you can do that:

Donating Time:

Samaritan’s Purse and the Burlington Professional Firefighters Association, are coordinating volunteer efforts. If you have some time to give, sign up below or phone the number and they can put you to work where most needed.

Volunteer: Burlington Professional Firefighters Association – Flood Assistance or by phone with Samaritan’s Purse, 905.592.1874

Donating a good or service:

If you have some other good or service to give, sign in to the city portal to offer it. Need something? Sign in at the same place. This online portal is intended to match goods and services directly with needs.

Request or Offer a good/service: City of Burlington – Community Bulletin Board

Additional Resources:

The City of Burlington has developed a web page specifically for Burlington Flood Relief. Check here for updates and to find out more information about the flood, what various agencies are doing, how you can help and more.

City of Burlington – Flood Information

The Region of Halton has also developed a web page about the flood to assist flood victims, provide information on Regional grant programs, and more. Check below, or call 311, for updates:

Halton Region – Flood Update

 

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Burlington Flood Relief 2014: The need, how you can help
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For information on the Burlington Flood relief including quick links about how to volunteer or donate, with a Q&A about how the funding works.
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