Province increases flexibility for disaster recovery programs – MLA Report

As relief efforts continue in Southern Alberta and on other disaster recovery programs, the Alberta government is increasing flexibility in the eligibility criteria for all applicants.

Some changes to the eligibility criteria to help residents, businesses and farmers include:

• Lifting the maximum assistance limit for all applicants;

• Raising the maximum yearly gross revenue ceiling from $5 million to $15 million to allow more farming operations and small businesses to qualify under the program guidelines;

• Eliminating the requirement that says farmers must receive a minimum of 20 per cent of their gross annual income from the business, so more become eligible for assistance; and

• Removing the restriction for employing no more than 20 full-time employees for farming operations, so more large-scale farming operations qualify.

These program changes are retroactive to July 1, 2010 and will apply to all current and future provincial disaster recovery programs. These programs are designed to assist with uninsurable losses of essential items and to restore property to pre-disaster functional condition.

Some of the other changes that have already been made to help residents, businesses and farmers through this recovery program include:

• Increasing staff levels to speed up the processing of cheques. In the last month, the number of cheques issued to residential applicants has more than tripled.

• Establishing a temporary cross-ministry office in Irvine, one of the hardest-hit communities, to provide residents with a one-stop source for face-to-face information on their disaster recovery files, as well as answers to other questions. The office has been assisting families with a range of related supports from water testing kits to erosion information to clothing assistance.

• Proactively developing solutions for interim shelter arrangements, a service that would not normally be provided within disaster recovery guidelines. At the request of Minister Goudreau, staff have worked with landlords, landowners and Cypress County in obtaining accommodations, services and preparing a development permit. Staff will continue to pursue solutions on behalf of affected residents.

In any disaster recovery program, government’s primary goal is to process residential applications to help get people’s lives back to normal as quickly as possible. To date we have issued 1,272 cheques and we have paid out $5.1 million in disaster recovery assistance. Now that more than 70 per cent of residential applications have received full or partial payment and the required documentation for commercial applications are starting to come in, the workload is expected to shift toward a higher volume of small business and farming operation applications.

Health ministers endorse health improvement strategy

Health and Wellness Minister Gene Zwozdesky, Parliamentary Assistant Raj Sherman, and their federal, provincial and territorial counterparts have committed to several initiatives to improve the health of Canadians during their meetings from Sept. 13th to 14th.

More specifically, ministers agreed to: advancing scientific research with respect to the safety and efficacy of Dr. Zamboni’s Liberation treatment; a Declaration on Prevention and Promotion; a framework for action to promote healthy weights (including reducing childhood obesity); a commitment to make marketing healthy foods for children a priority; and, supporting the call of Canadian premiers for everyone to lower their personal sodium intake (including encouraging the food industry to meet voluntary targets for sodium reduction in prepared and packaged foods).

Zwozdesky also noted that Alberta was chosen earlier this year as one of seven North American sites to host a major MS research project that will study the linkages between blocked veins and MS symptoms – including some MS patients who underwent Zamboni’s treatment.

Ministers also discussed a pan-Canadian purchasing strategy for common procurement of drugs, supplies and equipment, building upon New Western Partnership agreement between Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, signed in April.

Traffic fatalities and injuries drop in Alberta

For the second consecutive year, traffic fatalities and injuries have declined in Alberta. In spite of increases in population, drivers and vehicles, traffic fatalities decreased 14 per cent from 2008 to 2009, and traffic injuries also dropped 13 per cent.

Driver error continues to be a contributing factor in 90 per cent of traffic collisions. Following too closely, running off the road and making a left turn across the path of an oncoming vehicle were the most frequently identified improper driver actions contributing to casualty collisions. Also, 21 per cent of drivers involved in fatal crashes had consumed alcohol prior to the collision.

The Alberta Traffic Safety Plan is a comprehensive strategy aimed at reducing the number of injuries and deaths on Alberta’s roadways. The plan is built on a foundation of best practices, research and specific coordinated actions in enforcement, engineering, education, communications, community mobilization and legislative enhancements aimed at improving traffic safety.

To view the 2009 Alberta Traffic Collision Statistics, visit http://transportation.alberta.ca/statistics.

As the MLA for Drumheller-Stettler, I am always available to assist constituents. If you have any questions or concerns please contact one of my my constituency offices at Stettler 403-742-4284; Hanna 403-854-4333; Drumheller 403-823-8181, or my Legislature office at 780-427-2137. Also, please subscribe to my e newsletter at http://hayden.mypcmla.ca/.

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