Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard (left) and Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu visit the reception centre for High Level evacuees at Grande Prairie Regional College in Grande Prairie, Alta. on Monday, May 27.
Peter Shokeir / Daily Herald-Tribune
The Alberta government is now offering financial assistance to the 5,000 evacuees who have fled the Chuckegg Creek wildfire southwest of High Level.Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu and Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard met with evacuees and helped distribute relief funds inside the reception centre at Grande Prairie Regional College (GPRC) on Monday.“It’s been wonderful to come to Grande Prairie and the Grande Prairie Regional College to visit with the evacuees and to hear firsthand how this process is working,” Minister Madu said. “I am so pleased that everyone is safe.”Evacuees are able to receive $1,250 per adult and $500 per dependent child. As of Monday morning, the province has given relief funds to 2,200 evacuees and processed more than $2.2 million.“What I am hearing is that the folks are grateful that we were able to move swiftly with the evacuation and they are very pleased with the work that our government has done so far,” Madu said. “They are very pleased with the financial assistance that we have been able to provide for folks.”Funds may take up to 24 hours for processing, while pre-loaded debit cards are available for those unable to receive e-transfers. Evacuees can register for their MyAlberta digital ID anytime and have been able to apply for emergency payments since Sunday at noon.Although it has taken almost a week for relief funds to become available since the evacuation order was issued May 20, Madu stated that this wasn’t a significant delay.“I don’t think the process was slow and I think that we moved quickly,” he said. “Folks are very pleased with this particular process. I did not hear a single person out there who complained that the process was slow.”The Grande Prairie Regional Emergency Partnership (GPREP), an emergency response partnership of local municipalities, had opened the reception centre on May 21 shortly after the mandatory evacuation. The centre assists evacuees in finding shelter and provides necessities such as toothpaste and water at its distribution centre.MLA Allard described her initial reaction as “emotional” when visiting the reception centre.“I was asked to pray for people, given multiple hugs, thanked for the support, just thanked for being there today,” Allard said. “I just was so moved by the community spirit that’s down there and the patience of the people in line.”As of Saturday, 640 evacuees have been registered in Grande Prairie and are residing in regional hotels. While a majority of High Level evacuees have gone to closer communities such as Slave Lake and High Prairie, Allard noted that many individuals fleeing the wildfire come to Grande Prairie due to the city having more amenities. She added that evacuees have also been able to receive free meals from some restaurants and free admission to the Eastlink Centre.“We’re very hopeful that the people will be home by next week,” Allard said. “[But] it’s up to the weather.”Madu expressed confidence in the UCP government’s ability to manage the remaining wildfire season in Alberta and assist affected municipalities.“What is important is that our government will be there with these communities to the very end,” Madu said. “We are closely monitoring all of the fires. Our commitment is to deal with our people and those communities as long as is it takes to and [do] whatever it takes to make sure folks are safe and that when it is safe to return home, they will be able to return home.”