I was listening to CBC on my way to work on Wednesday, Nov. 22. Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb was being interviewed. According to him, someone else had made a claim for the Red Cross money with his address. Cobb said he knew of other people in Williams Lake to whom the same thing had happened.
The solution, according to Cobb, was simple; he said the Red Cross shouldn’t e-transfer people money but just mail it to them, further adding that with the vouchers available at the evacuation centres people shouldn’t really have any immediate needs.
This is a severe misunderstanding of the consequences of being evacuated.
For many people, when they were evacuated, their wages also ceased; after all, most of them weren’t working anymore. Yes, some employers continued paying their employees, gave them a loan or were able to keep operating, but this was not the case for many of those evacuated.
Yes, there were vouchers, covering food, clothing and sometimes lodging or fuel, but those are merely people’s most pressing needs and costs.
While for many their wages ceased, their bills continued. Despite being evacuated, they were still expected to make mortgage, rental or car payments. BC Hydro made bill credits and payment plans, but these types of things didn’t kick in immediately. Then there are credit card debts etc. to pay off.
If I had to guess, I’m really only scratching the tip of the iceberg here in terms of the types of things people have to pay that’s not covered by vouchers.
While this doesn’t reflect my personal evacuation experience (I was able to keep working continuously throughout), people have told me they went through most of their savings as a result of the evacuations; at least they had savings to go through. In one case, that was despite them finding a temporary job while evacuated.
Even outside of all this, according to the Canadian Bankers Association, in February 68 per cent of Canadians now do most of their banking digitally, using online and mobile banking. If Walt Cobb doesn’t want to use internet banking that’s his prerogative, but the reality is that that’s what most Canadians are doing.
Obviously, people making false Red Cross claims is a serious problem that needs to be addressed but delaying the Red Cross assistance until people get back home to pick up the assistance in the mail is completely ignorant of the reality of being evacuated.