05/07/2012 01:58 EDT | Updated 07/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Manitoba bolsters flood relief claim process, helps municipalities

WINNIPEG - Manitoba is hiring more staff to deal with the number of compensation claims that continue to pile up a year after flood waters receded in most areas of the province.

The provincial government has announced it will hire eight more appraisers and 14 other staff to deal with 30,000 claims submitted under various programs — everything from disaster assistance to agricultural support.

"We're gearing up with significant new staff resources," Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton said Monday.

The Liberals criticized the announcement as window-dressing.

Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard said the extra staff should have been hired last summer, shortly after rising rivers and lakes drove thousands of Manitobans from their homes and cottages.

Some property owners along Lake Manitoba, one of the worst-hit areas, have complained they have been unable to get answers or money from the province.

Ashton was unable to say exactly how many claims have yet to be processed and how many that have been processed are under appeal.

Roughly half of the disaster assistance claims have been processed, the government estimated, but less than half of the other types of claims.

Ashton also announced help for municipalities.

The province has committed to cover 90 per cent of the City of Brandon's flood preparation work — roughly double the original commitment, he said.

Huge walls of sandbags were erected in low-lying areas of Brandon last spring, and dikes were built up to protect the city from the rising Assiniboine River.

The government is also giving seven smaller municipalities one-time grants to help their rebuilding efforts and make up for lost tax revenues from flooded properties.