WINNIPEG - Alberta may soon get an initial, interim payment of $500 million from the federal government to help cover the cost of this summer's devastating flood, Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said Tuesday.
Federal reimubursements under the Disaster Financial Assistance program, which requires Ottawa to cover up to 90 per cent of disaster costs, often take years to process as infrastructure is rebuilt and expenses are tallied and verified.
But Ottawa is moving to make interim payments more quickly, Blaney said in Winnipeg.
"I can confirm that we are evaluating the possibility of moving forward with an interim payment of $500 million, but this is still being processed and there has been no announcement made yet," he said.
Blaney was in the Manitoba capital to announce a third instalment of funding for the 2011 flood that forced thousands of people from their homes along the Assiniboine River and several lakes.
Manitoba is expecting to eventually recoup $620 million from the federal government. It has received $300 million so far, $200 million of which was announced by Blaney Tuesday.
The Alberta government will almost certainly receive much more as well.
The province has estimated the cost of the flood at $5 billion, although not all of that money involves emergency measures that would qualify under the Disaster Financial Assistance program.
Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths put in a request for a $500 million advance payment earlier this month.
While the funding formula is set, the provinces and Ottawa sometimes haggle over what projects qualify for federal reimbursement.
Manitoba is still awaiting word on whether Ottawa will refund the cost of a $100-million emergency channel that was built to drain Lake St. Martin.
"We certainly indicated that the emergency outlet was something that would qualify in our opinion," Steve Ashton, Manitoba's minister for emergency measures, said Tuesday.
"Obviously, both federal and provincial officials will be going through that."
Damage from the 2011 Manitoba flood has been pegged at $1.2 billion — a fraction of the havoc wreaked this June in Alberta, where more than 14,500 homes were damaged.
Thousands of people in Calgary and surrounding communities were forced from their homes, and the town of High River was evacuated.
In a fiscal update earlier this month, the Alberta government said $8.6 million had been sent out to cover disaster recovery claims, covering about one-quarter of 8,200 applications to date.
That money was on top of an initial outlay of $70 million in pre-loaded debit cards to flood victims.