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Businesses, residents affected by June flooding in west-central Alberta can begin applying for disaster funding

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A provincial program that helps communities recover from unexpected disasters will provide up to $68 million in funding for a clutch of communities in west-central Alberta following damage from June flooding.

The funds to help cover uninsurable costs are coming from Alberta's Disaster Recovery Program, which can be accessed by communities when they experience significant expenses from an extraordinary disaster such as a one-in-25-year rainfall or one-in-100-year streamflow from water courses.

The towns of Edson and Whitecourt and their surrounding counties -- Yellowhead County and Woodlands County, respectively -- were affected by heavy rainfall and spring runoff from June 16-23, leading to flooding damage to businesses, homes, roads and property.

Residents, businesses and non-government organizations can now apply for the funding, which are capped at $500,000 per applicant.

Mike Ellis, the minister of public safety and emergency services, told reporters at the legislature Wednesday costs are split 90-10 between the province and the businesses, organizations and individuals applying for relief.

West Yellowhead MLA Martin Long, whose constituency contains many of the communities affected by the June flooding, said the provincial funding is "a significant move" for residents and businesses.

"We all know that insurance can only go so far and the financial burden from flood-related damages has destroyed the livelihoods of too many people," Long said Wednesday. "That's why this initiative is designed to specifically address those uninsurable costs helping my constituents rebuild and recover without the heavy financial strain."

Alberta has an agreement with the federal government, as do Canada's other nine provinces and three territories, for reimbursement for disasters, which could see the province receive up to $30 million out of the $68 million, said assistant deputy minister Stephen McCullough, the ministry's head of emergency management.

McCullough also said 15 per cent of the $68 million available for flooding relief can be applied to mitigation efforts, adding that he personally doesn't think the 15 per cent "is necessarily sufficient to deal with what we're facing collectively in terms of natural disasters."

"I know the Government of Alberta has been very vocal with federal counterparts" about the need for "disaster financial assistance arrangements and other federal programs to make more monies available for mitigation programs," McCullough said.

Ellis said he's noticed Ottawa at meetings between federal, provincial and territorial counterparts has acknowledged increasing funds for mitigation efforts is "worth having a further conversation."

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