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Province launches e-transfer for evacuees

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 12:01 PDT, Tue August 2, 2022

The province is launching upgrades to Emergency Support Services (ESS), including direct payment for evacuees to help meet their basic needs, including food and clothing.

E-transfer is now available in many communities for people receiving ESS after being evacuated and registering with the online Evacuee Registration and Assistance (ERA) tool. To be eligible for an e-transfer, people must log in to ERA online with their BC Services Card app and register. The BC Services Card app is available to download from the Apple and Google app stores.

"During past large-scale evacuations, we have seen delays and long lineups at reception centres, causing delays for people registering for ESS. With these upgrades, we'll get money straight into evacuees' bank accounts and give them the choice of where to spend these dollars," said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. "As part of getting prepared for emergencies, I encourage everyone, especially in areas at risk of flooding and wildfires, to pre-register with ESS online by using their BC Services Card app to log in. Doing this now will ensure you get the support you need quickly, during an emergency."

People in B.C. forced from their homes by fire, floods, earthquakes, or other emergencies may receive ESS for immediate needs when alternative supports, including insurance or accommodation with friends and family, are not available.

"Being evacuated is stressful enough, no one needs the added stress when it comes to money," said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests. "It's vital that anyone in this situation receives financial support as soon as possible. These much-needed upgrades to Emergency Support Services will make it much easier for anyone forced to leave their home during an emergency to have access to funds for their basic needs."

Modernizing the registration system ensures communities have access to the tools they need to provide evacuees with quick access to the supports they need. Previously, support was provided with paper referrals for specific suppliers.

"Evacuation is stressful, and people evacuating their homes and communities need access to money and support quickly and simply; these changes will do just that," said Roly Russell, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural and Regional Development. "I am so grateful to all the ESS volunteers who have done incredible work during the added complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic during B.C.'s recent and repeated disasters. These upgrades will give volunteers more time to focus on what's most important—evacuee care—make evacuees' lives simpler, and eliminate more headaches for our small businesses."

Evacuees should follow directions from their First Nation or local authority, including evacuation alerts and orders.

The upgrades will also speed up payments to suppliers and bring relief to suppliers who have felt burdened during previous emergency events.

As First Nations and local authorities work to implement and train on the new system, the province will continue to work with communities to ensure it runs smoothly.

"This important upgrade will provide evacuees with greater options and control over their recovery planning by enabling individuals to use Emergency Support Services funding in the way that best suits their family's needs," said Tanya Spooner, manager of emergency programs at the City of Prince George. "In 2017 and 2018, over 50,000 referrals for services were filled out by hand in Prince George, and the city became a strong advocate for an updated digital registration system. The city looks forward to implementing the technology and so we are able to provide the best possible service to evacuees in an emergency."

The digital system was launched in May 2020. An average of approximately 30,000 people use ESS each year, and that number was even higher in 2021 with the severe fire season and devastating November flooding.

To pre-register for Evacuee Registration and Assistance (ERA), visit ess.gov.bc.ca 

To learn how to set up the BC Services Card app, visit gov.bc.ca/bcservicescardapp

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