+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 7-24S

Establishing a Provincial Level of Service for Emergency Social Services

Date:
April 1, 2024
Expiry Date:
February 28, 2027
Active Status:
Active
Sponsors:
County of Grande Prairie
District:
4 - Northern
Year:
2024
Convention:
Spring
Category:
Emergency Services
Status:
Sent to Government
Vote Results:
Carried
Preamble:

WHEREAS there is currently no provincial level of service for emergency social services support when municipalities host individuals from outside of their jurisdiction during emergencies or disasters; and

WHEREAS host municipalities each set a level of service for emergency social services resulting in significant inconsistency among host municipalities; and

WHEREAS there have been inconsistent answers from the Government of Alberta regarding what emergency social services costs are eligible for cost recovery, resulting in host municipalities absorbing expenses that have later been deemed ineligible for cost recovery; and

WHEREAS there were a record number of community evacuations in Alberta in 2023 and the frequency, severity, and duration of emergency evacuations is increasing.

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta advocate that the Government of Alberta create a provincial level of service for emergency social services as a framework for municipalities to use when providing support to individuals from outside of their jurisdiction during emergencies or disasters;

FURTHER, BE IT RESOLVED that the proposed provincial level of service for emergency social services include schedules that indicate services that are considered basic survival needs, and which services are discretionary; with identification of what costs are eligible for cost recovery;

FURTHER, BE IT RESOLVED that the proposed provincial level of service for emergency social services acknowledge that the host municipality is providing a fee for service and that they will directly invoice the home jurisdiction, or the Government of Alberta and will not be required to apply for Disaster Recovery Program funding to recover their costs.

Member Background:

When a host municipality agrees to accept evacuees from another municipality, reserve, Metis settlement, or from outside of the province, they are doing so in good faith and trying to help others in their time of need. Unfortunately, the result is a significant disruption of services provided to its own residents. Even worse, local taxpayers are often saddled with a portion of the costs that have been determined ineligible under a Disaster Recovery Program (DRP). This should not be happening when the host community is not the one experiencing the emergency.

During an emergency when a host municipality is asked to accept evacuees on short notice, there is verbal reassurance that all costs will be covered, but there is not enough time to prepare a written agreement. Consequently, the details are subject to individual interpretation. Even when trying to clarify expectations and eligibility for cost recovery through the Government of Alberta, answers will vary from one day to the next as staff changes occur and new staff are unaware of previous decisions.

Host municipalities are also asked to apply for DRP funding to recover their costs, even though they were not the community that had the emergency. This process extends the time to recover costs well beyond their fiscal year-end, forcing them to carry those costs forward sometimes for years. In many cases, a very large portion of costs have gone unrecovered.

The rules established for DRPs are often referred to by provincial staff to answer level of service questions. There are several problems with this approach because there are several assumptions made in the DRP rules that do not apply to the host community. DRP rules are intended as a cost-sharing arrangement between the federal and provincial governments and the affected municipality. An example of this is regular staff time not being covered, only overtime. For the host municipality that forces them to subsidize the emergency costs of another municipality.

Many of the problems faced by host municipalities can be prevented if the Government of Alberta creates a level of service for emergency social services for hosting an external community. This level of service should list the services that are required to meet an evacuee’s “basic survival needs”, services that are discretionary and require approval of the Director of Emergency Management, and what services are eligible for cost recovery.

This level of service must be created without using the lens of the DRP rules.

RMA Background:

RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.

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