How to access financial aid for N.S. wildfire evacuees

Vehicles line a road Sunday during the evacuation of the Upper Tantallon area due to a wildfire. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)
Vehicles line a road Sunday during the evacuation of the Upper Tantallon area due to a wildfire. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotians who have been evacuated due to wildfires in the area of Upper Tantallon and in Shelburne County are now able to register for financial relief, the province said Tuesday.

Premier Tim Houston said households in evacuated areas across the province can now apply for one-time financial assistance of $500 to cover incidental costs, like hotels or toiletries, on the Red Cross website.

The funds are limited to one payment per household.

"We know that you have the weight of the world on your shoulders right now," said Houston. "I will do whatever I can to reduce any pressure points that I can from a government perspective."

Houston said proof of evacuation will need to be provided along with a valid email address before funds are dispersed via e-transfer.

CBC News
CBC News

Those who don't have access to email can contact the Red Cross by phone at 1-800-863-6582 and the money will be sent via cheque, although the premier said these claims will take longer to process.

The Red Cross is also warning Nova Scotians to be wary of possible fraud.

The organization said it will never ask Nova Scotians for banking information, social insurance numbers, or any credit card numbers in order to receive financial assistance, or contact evacuees via text message. The Red Cross said it will only communicate via email, phone or in person.

How to donate

Donations to the Red Cross, in support of those in Nova Scotia and elsewhere in Atlantic Canada who are most impacted by the wildfires, can be made on its website.

On Tuesday, United Way Halifax also launched a wildfire recovery fund for those affected by the fires in Upper Tantallon, Hammonds Plains and Shelburne County.

The organization said donations will go toward helping those impacted meet their basic needs, including groceries and mental health supports.

Use caution before donating to GoFundMe, says expert

As the wildfires have progressed, fundraisers on websites like GoFundMe have sprung up.

But Alison Clements, a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, said people should use caution before donating to make sure the funds are going to the people who need it most.

"It is always wise to be vigilant," she told CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia.

"And know that your donor dollars are going where you want them to go."

On GoFundMe, Clements recommends reading carefully, and checking the comments to make sure it's not a scam. If you're unsure, she said, try contacting the organizer of the page directly.

"Just go with your gut," said Clements. "If you're not feeling right about something, it's probably not right."

Registered charities are usually a safe bet, she said, but if you've never heard of the organization in question, try Googling it and checking the Canadian Revenue Agency's website to be safe.

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