The lineup at Big River gas station late on August 16, 2023. Photo: Shannon Moore
The NWT government unveiled a portal on Tuesday that will allow evacuees who drove themselves to safety to begin claiming compensation.
The territory is offering $750 per vehicle to evacuees who left NWT communities and drove to a southern jurisdiction, or $400 per vehicle if you left an NWT community but remained within the territory.
To complete the application, you’ll need your licence plate number; your SIN; your bank institution number, branch number, and bank account number; the address of your bank (you can google this); and a copy of a void cheque (you can likely download digital void cheque when you log into your online banking).
That announcement came late last week in response to a crescendo of concern from thousands of evacuees who said they had followed government instructions to get themselves out of danger by car, and even to arrange their own accommodation, only to discover no financial assistance was coming their way.
At a Monday press conference, deputy minister of finance Bill MacKay said a webpage will allow evacuees to apply for income disruption, travel funding or both.
“We were just looking that over today for final approval, and then I’m hoping it’ll go live on Tuesday afternoon,” MacKay said, “and you’ll be able to get paid through direct deposit, through that portal, for both those programs.”
The income disruption program, which is not related to the evacuation travel support program, offers a one-time $750 payment to any NWT resident aged 17 or over “whose employment has been disrupted by an evacuation lasting more than seven days.”
The travel program works per event, which means if you evacuated multiple times this summer, you can apply for each one. You can apply if you drove out of any community evacuated because of a wildfire this year.
For example, if you evacuated from Hay River to Yellowknife in May, then from Hay River to Grande Prairie in August, you could claim $400 for the first one and $750 for the second.
If you were in Fort Smith on August 12 and evacuated to Hay River, then left Hay River on August 13 for Edmonton, you could similarly claim $400 and $750 for a total of $1,150.
If you were in Jean Marie River this month and managed to drive to Fort Simpson, you could claim $400.
MacKay said payments would begin “as soon as possible” and staff were being redeployed to help process the expected mountain of applications.
We’ll bring you the application link in our live coverage as soon as we have it.
MacKay said the first payments – around 80 of them – for income disruption funding to Hay River and Fort Smith residents had recently gone out.
Meanwhile, some evacuees who booked scheduled flights to get to safety have queried whether they will eventually be eligible for any compensation.
Right now, for example, there is no GNWT funding to cover costs for people who booked an Air Canada flight to Vancouver or Canadian North flight to Inuvik once the evacuation order in Yellowknife was declared.