More than a week after post-tropical storm Dorian swept through P.E.I., the provincial government has formally requested assistance from the federal government.
At a media briefing on Monday, Justice and Public Safety Minister Bloyce Thompson said his office would be sending a letter to federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale requesting financial assistance for its provincial disaster assistance program. The program will provide financial assistance to municipalities, small businesses, non-profits and individuals affected by the storm.
The province had previously turned down assistance from the federal government in the immediate aftermath of the storm, on the advice of the province’s emergency measures organization. EMO personnel had stated federal assistance was not needed in the first days after the storm.
Thompson did not provide specific details on when Islanders will be able to apply for the newly-announced assistance.
“For now, what Islanders can do (is) work with their insurance companies. Take pictures, take videos, keep the receipts,” Thompson said.
Thompson said the emergency measures organization is currently working on details and criteria for those looking to apply for the disaster assistance program.
“We want this to be as easy and clear as possible. The last thing we want right now is to cause more stress on Islanders,” Thompson said.
Over the weekend, the government announced Islanders drawing social assistance can receive a one-time pay-out to help pay for lost food items or property damage due to the storm.
Individuals can receive up to $110, while couples can receive $140 and an additional $30 for each dependant or child.
“This will not be treated as an overpayment and assistance will not be clawed back,” said Social Development Minister Ernie Hudson.
The department has budgeted $500,000 for these payouts.
Monday morning marked the first time since last Saturday that electricity had been restored to all homes on the Island.
But Premier Dennis King said a full recovery from the storm could take weeks or months. He acknowledged that the storm had caused headaches for thousands of Islanders.
“Dorian delivered a blow that we were braced for, but it was probably to a greater extent than we had anticipated or hoped. Having said that, there were no deaths, there were no significant injuries and there were no major structural damages to our major structural infrastructure,” King said.
King’s government has faced criticism for its response to the storm. Some have questioned the decision by the province to decline assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces in the recovery effort.
Hal Perry, Liberal MLA for Tignish-Palmer Road, also took issue with the lengthy closure of the Access P.E.I. office in Tignish.
“The Access Centre in Tignish, which is a one-stop government service centre, was closed for one full week immediately after a disaster in the area,” Perry said.
The closed Access P.E.I. office did not have a sign on the door indicating where residents could go for information about government assistance, Perry said.
Perry said many residents who reached out to him felt forgotten by the provincial government in its response to the storm. He said more than a dozen individuals had complained to him about the office’s closure.
“Has government forgotten about us in West Prince?” Perry asked.
When asked about the closure of the Access P.E.I. office, Premier King did not specifically address the circumstances in Tignish. But he noted that there had been criticisms about the recovery effort.
“It’s a fair criticism to be suggesting ‘is it fast enough?’ King said.
“I do think we try to do the best we can everyday here to make sure the most vulnerable are helped. I think in this case that we can hold our heads high. I think everybody from EMO all the way down through did a miraculous job in a very difficult time.”