Fundraising campaigns for Cape Breton flood victims could cut financial help

Money raised by flood victims through online fundraising campaigns could cut how much financial help they receive through the province's disaster financial assistance program.

'We will not be paying for the same item or service twice,' says executive director of EMO

The province has received 344 claims for disaster financial assistance after parts of Cape Breton were hit by flooding in October. (Lachlan MacKinnon)

The use of online fundraising campaigns has muddied the waters for Cape Breton flood victims struggling to get by after floodwaters rushed through their homes on Thanksgiving Day. 

Flood victims who use money raised through a GoFundMe page to make repairs to their homes will receive less financial help from the provincial government's disaster financial assistance program, according to the province's Emergency Management Office.

"Let me be clear, we will not be paying for the same item or service twice," said Andy Lathem, executive director of EMO.

'Just don't claim it'

For example, if a person raised $5,000 and used all the money to replace their flood-damaged floor, the province will not reimburse them for the floor because it has already been repaired. 

"If that item was paid for you just don't claim it, and that's fine," said Lathem.

Several flooded homes had so much damage they had to be abandoned. (Terry Drohan)

There are some exceptions. If people use donations for things not covered by the disaster financial assistance program, such as rent or food, they could still receive the full amount they're entitled to under the program.

$200K limit per household

"As long as it doesn't qualify for disaster financial assistance and it's not been paid for then we will pay for it under disaster financial assistance, as long as it meets the qualifying criteria," said Lathem.

People have been turning to GoFundMe to help them while the province finishes processing applications for disaster assistance. One woman, for instance, raised more than $20,000 using the site.

GoFundMe is a website that allows people to solicit donations from the public. People using the site share their story, set a financial goal for the fundraiser and ask people to help them reach it. GoFundMe charges a fee of about eight per cent on every donation.

Removing floodwater from homes was a losing battle for many people in Cape Breton after 225 millimetres of rain came down in 24 hours on Thanksgiving Day. (CBC)

The provincial government has already donated $500,000 to the United Way of Cape Breton, which distributes the money to flood victims. Some people who lost their homes are also getting money from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality for temporary accommodations.

Through the disaster financial assistance program the province will pay up to $200,000 to people who lost their homes in the flood.

344 flood claims

Lathem said 344 flood claims have been made to the disaster assistance program and more staff have been brought in to help process them.

At least one of those claims has been filled, but there's no word on how long it will take for everyone else to get their money.

"There's a level of accountability with the program as it is provided to the people of Nova Scotia. We want to ensure that we are doing the right thing by them and we're also accountable for the funds that are being expended."