P.E.I. MLAs question Red Cross on Fiona relief rollout

For weeks Islanders have been lining up to prove their identity to receive payment from the Red Cross. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
For weeks Islanders have been lining up to prove their identity to receive payment from the Red Cross. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

More than a month after post-tropical storm Fiona, thousands of Islanders are still waiting to receive their Fiona support payments.

The P.E.I. government announced last month it would provide Fiona support payments of $250 per household, to be distributed by the Red Cross.

For weeks, Islanders — some of whom are seniors and people with disabilities — have been lining up to prove their identity to receive their payment.

People were still lining up at the Red Cross location in Charlottetown on Friday morning.

"Why was this such, I want to say, a mess?" asked Liberal MLA Robert Henderson at a legislative committee meeting on Friday. Henderson said in his 16 years as an MLA the issue of money rolling out is by far the issue he has been called about the most.

P.E.I. Legislature
P.E.I. Legislature

"I appreciate that it has caused challenges for folks who have lived in the same dwelling for quite some time, but we have to make sure we are giving the funds to those who have registered," said Bill Lawlor, director of the Red Cross on P.E.I., at the committee meeting.

"If there was any variation and we weren't able to make that match, that required people to come to us in tremendously large numbers."

Henderson said there should have been more Red Cross locations set up to help with the rollout of the support money.

"People had to drive so far to prove their identity," he said.

P.E.I. Legislative Assembly
P.E.I. Legislative Assembly

Lawlor told the legislative committee the Red Cross has never experienced anything like that before.

He said the process has changed since the initial rollout and a priority line has been established.

"We are responding now and I appreciate that it is not challenge-free, but I also appreciate, coming from years of experience, that any time any organization responds to any emergency response specifically to the scale of Fiona, it is never perfect as much as we try to improve each and every time," Lawlor said, adding it was hard to get additional staff to the Island because of power outages and lack of living accommodations.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Green MLA Karla Bernard said people are telling her about their difficulties with the wait. She said some people have had to take time off work to wait in line.

"It's almost like we are going to need additional supports for people as they attempt to access these funds," Bernard said during the legislative committee meeting.

"I absolutely think that government should be just taking an active role to help because there are challenges here."

When it comes to the number of people who have registered, Fiona is the largest response the Red Cross has ever been involved with, Lawlor said.

According to the organization, the province is now helping confirm identities.

So far more than 54,000 households have received financial assistance, but some Islanders are still registering for support.