11/10/2014 04:28 EST | Updated 01/10/2015 05:59 EST

Burlington flood relief: Province kicking in 'up to' $3M

Up to $4.5 million in disaster relief money will be available to victims of the Burlington flood in August, following a provincial government announcement to kick in as much as $3 million to the relief pool. 

Eleanor McMahon and Indira Naidoo-Harris, Liberal MPPs for Burlington and Halton respectively, made the announcement at Burlington city hall, saying the province will match local donations to flood relief with $2 for every dollar raised, up to $3 million.

Residents have until Dec. 15 to donate and apply for relief (which can be done online).

With more than $800,000 raised so far, it leaves a sizable gap of some $700,000 in private donations to make the most of the province's relief deal, which will use funds from the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP).

Burlington Community Fund to distribute relief funds

The Burlington Community Fund (BCF), which has managed the fundraising effort for the City of Burlington, will have the tough task of doling out the cash. 

"We are going to have to triage," said BCF president Colleen Mulholland. "They're all in great need, but we're going to have to triage to get those that don't have furnaces. We know that there's families that are still out of their homes, so we will go through a bit of a ranking on Dec. 16."

Mulholland is expecting around 500 applicants. Private insurance companies are already processing an estimated $82 million in residential claims, Mayor Rick Goldring said. 

Uninsured and under-insured target of relief funds

The relief funds will be for those people who were either uninsured or under-insured. Many homes were not protected for groundwater issues or sewage backups caused by the flood in their insurance, causing gaps for many people, McMahon told a crowd of people who had gathered at city hall for the announcement. Those gaps were in the thousands of dollars — some more than $100,000. 

Those gaps are the main reason why the affluent Burlington neighbourhood was receiving relief, McMahon said, rather than towns like Angus, Ont. Angus was recently denied ODRAP relief funding for tornadoes that ripped through Essa Township in June. 

The funding announcement featured several speakers who gave nearly an hour of thank-yous. Speakers included both MPPs, Goldring, business leader Ron Foxcroft, Mulholland and Halton regional chair Gary Carr. Carr said the municipal line, 3-1-1, has received more than 6,000 calls since August and led to 3,000 house visits related to the flood.

MPP: 'People's lives were suddenly on their front lawns'

The Aug. 4 flood dropped two months of rain within a few hours, McMahon said. By the end of the day, 191 millimetres of rain had fallen on Burlington. 

"People's lives were suddenly on their front lawns," McMahon said, recalling how residents desperately tried to save belongings from their basements.

Goldring said Premier Kathleen Wynne called the day after the flood, asking if the city needed the province's help. 

"I said yes, we did," Goldring said. 

The money won't come for free — it will rely on private donations. Foxcroft said he expects many large private donations to be announced in the following week.