NORTH RIVER - Home and business owners affected by recent flooding could be eligible for increased provincial disaster assistance under program changes announced Thursday.
"If you are a homeowner, if you are the operator of a business whose revenue is $2 million a year or less, you will now be able to claim up to $80,000 in disaster financial assistance," Truro-Bible Hill MLA Lenore Zann said, during an announcement held in North River Thursday morning.
As well, not-for-profit organizations will now be eligible for up to $200,000 in assistance.
For the past 12 years, Nova Scotia's previous disaster financial relief program for all three categories was capped at $50,000 per application.
"We feel that this change that we're making to the cap on private claims will better protect Nova Scotians on future weather events and help them get their lives back to normal and help them get back on their feet," Zann said.
"All those with uninsurable damages in the counties of Colchester, Cumberland, Hants, Pictou and the Halifax Regional Municipality will be eligible for assistance."
Eligible applicants are those who are unable to obtain flood insurance because of where their property is located. Anyone who could be insured for flooding but chose not to, is not eligible.
Flooding that occurred throughout the region between Sept. 9 and 11 resulted in an estimated $2.6 million in damages to roadways, river banks, other infrastructure and private homes and businesses, Zann said. The province is expecting to pick up $1.7 million of that tab while the federal government is expected to absorb the remaining $830,000, she said. However, provincial applications will not be dependent upon any federal contributions and the province has not placed a cap on the total amount it may pay out.
"It's very exciting information we received here after 30 days of what we've gone through here in North River, Murray Siding, Bible Hill and other places ...," said Colchester County deputy mayor Ron Cavanaugh, during the announcement.
"I'm very, very happy hearing the news coming today from the government."
Bible Hill resident Victoria Reid, who is not eligible for flood insurance and whose home received extensive damage during the flooding, echoed his sentiments.
"I'm just ecstatic. It's just an unbelievable blessing," she said. "No one can believe what it's like to see everything you own, just literally go down a river."
Reid, who had be removed from her home in the bucket of a front-end loader, said she lives on flood-fringe area just off Farnham Road and while she has seen water creep up around her property in previous floods, this is the first time she has been directly impacted.
"But nothing ever has come into the house. This time the water had risen so fast, I mean I was in water up to my knees and saying, 'Oh my gosh, I have to get out of here.'"
Colchester North MLA Karen Casey also welcomed the announcement, albeit with guarded expectations.
"It's good news that there will be some relief for those with uninsurable damages," she said. "There's a lot of questions that are unanswered though. There does not seem to be any cap on this whole project, so it could grow into the millions of dollars."
That is not the way governments normally operate, Casey said, while also questioning just what criteria will be used to determine eligibility.
"It sounds like there's no limit to that money so my concern is there will be people who will be disappointed in this because they will make application for something that is deemed not to be insurable or its not the replacement cost they are going to get, or if they didn't have all-perils insurance, are they not going to be covered? Because a lot of people don't have all perils insurance (because of the cost). But that is an option."
Casey said she hoped such criteria would not lead to disappointment for rejected applicants but ultimately the program's value will be determined as the applications are processed.
"The proof will be when the actual assessment is done, the application is reviewed and then it's determined who receives what," she said. "But to have unlimited dollars to put into something, that's a challenge, I think, for the government. And I'm disappointed, I guess, that they haven't given more thought to this."
Applications (which can be downloaded online) are available through the provincial government, the Emergency Measure's office and at Access Nova Scotia sites.