Disaster relief program faces provincial review
Disaster Financial Assistance program pays a maximum of $80,000 for victims
The New Brunswick government is reviewing its disaster financial assistance program that helps homeowners and businesses to clean up after catastrophic weather events.
Public Safety Minister Robert Trevors announced the review on Monday and is asking citizens to complete an online survey to discuss their views on the subject.
The financial assistance policy has not been reviewed in several years, but the program has been used in the recent floods in Perth-Andover, Charlotte County, the Fredericton area and parts of eastern and northern New Brunswick.
In these situations, the provincial government is required to pay the first $750,000 of any disaster before it can apply for any federal disaster assistance help. The provincial government does not set aside any money for disaster assistance in its annual budget.
The assistance program is designed to pay the costs for basic items and the maximum a person can receive is $80,000.
The amount of money spent by the provincial government on disaster assistance has climbed steadily in recent decades.
Between 1990 and 1999, the provincial government spent $27.3 million to cover losses from six natural disasters. However, the provincial government spent $88 million on 14 natural disasters between 2000 and 2010.
And, the recent Perth-Andover flood cost the province $27 million, which is almost equals the amount spent between 1990 and 1999.
Mary Guitard used the assistance program when her house was among the many that were devastated by the major flood that hit Charlotte County in 2010.
She said the provincial officials were easy to deal with as she was trying to get financial help to fix her house.
"The government helped us quite a bit. I didn't have to cry and run to get them to do anything. I think they helped me," she said.
Even after the help, Guitard said her property still floods when it rains hard.
The only difference now is her new home sits atop three feet of gravel to prevent what happened in 2010.
"There was over four feet of water in it. I lost everything in it. The house was no good, it was ruined," she said.
The province government ended up buying the land from several residents around Guitard’s house. The town covered the cost of their new property.
Rosetta Melanson said she is grateful for the help but she would have liked more input into the new location.
"I call it a wetland. To me, it's very boggy, all around the mini home," Melanson said.
"There's a lot of water in the ditch in the road all the time. There's a lot of water in between the two mini homes and also out back."
While Guitard said she doesn't think many changes need to be made to the financial assistance program, she would like to see more done to prevent it from happening at all.