Province announces financial support for Essex County residents affected by late summer storm 

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Eligible home and business owners across Essex County affected by the severe storms that rolled through the region back in late August are now able to seek some financial relief from the provincial government. 

The province activated the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians (DRAO) program for the Town of Essex, Municipality of Lakeshore, Town of Kingsville, and the Town of Amherstburg Tuesday. 

The program is designed to assist Ontarians in recovering costs associated with natural disasters, such as floods or tornadoes.

Provincial representatives visited the region in mid-September and were given a tour of damaged properties

Mayor Sherry Bondy says some residents lost their homes with the foundation being swept away in the floods. 

She says the town reached out to the province for assistance.

"Every area of our municipality was hit, so it's great to see the entire Town of Essex qualify. Harrow and Colchester were the hardest hit, along with some parts in McGregor, and it was sanitary and storm water, so it was really bad. It was a really bad flood. There was a lot of water coming down in such a short period of time that no system could keep up to it."

She says hundreds of residents have reached out to her for help and she expects 400-500 Essex residents to take part in DRAO.

"So many families were looking online for used furniture, places to stay, clothing, dressers, stuff for their children. It really hit our community bad. So this is really good news in advance of the holiday's because a lot of home insurance didn't cover the complete devastation of the impacts."

Bondy says going forward residents need to look at how they can make their basements more secure.

"We're going to do our part as a municipality as well, but people should really be looking a subsidy program's for backflow valves, disconnecting their down spouts. Getting a backup sub pump, perhaps even a generator if you can afford it. We really need to look at flood and disaster mitigation at a personal household level going forward as well."

Amherstburg Mayor Michael Prue says his town was not as badly hit as Kingsville or Essex was.

"They were hit the worst in terms of damage and the number of claims but we still have a sizeable amount and I am hoping that this program will help some people."

Prue says he isn't sure how many claims will be made by Amherstburg residents. 

"This is great news for residents in the affected area and we appreciate the support from the Province of Ontario, as well as Lakeshore staff who helped coordinate this program with the Province," said Mayor Tracey Bailey in a news release. 

"Responding to disasters like the one we experienced this summer is truly a team effort, and we hope everyone who was impacted takes advantage of the opportunity."

Eligibility for the program includes small owner-operated businesses or farms, not-for-profit organizations, homeowners and residential tenants.

Financial help from the program is limited to $250,000 per application and is subject to a $500 deductible, however, this deductible may be waived for low-income households.

The program reimburses up to 90 per cent of your total eligible costs, with limits for emergency expenses, household appliances, and furnishings.

The program is not intended to replace insurance coverage, and any insurance payments will be deducted from eligible costs.

To find out if if you are eligible for assistance if you are in the activation area, and for next steps, individuals, small businesses, farms and not-for-profit organizations should review the maps and program guidelines, or call 1-877-822-0116 or email disasterassistance@ontario.ca after speaking with your private insurance provider.

More details on DRAO can be found here: https://news.ontario.ca/en/bulletin/1003878/ontario-government-activates-disaster-recovery-assistance-to-support-residents-in-southwestern-ontario.

Residents will have until Wednesday Mar. 27, 2024, to apply for assistance through the program.

-With files from AM800's Rusty Thomson