Financial aid for flood victims not yet under consideration

The Southern Lakes region is a “catastrophe,” but financial relief for residents with flood-damaged property is not guaranteed, said…

The Southern Lakes region is a “catastrophe,” but financial relief for residents with flood-damaged property is not guaranteed, said Premier Dennis Fentie last week.

However, it’s possible once water levels recede, he added.

Currently, the focus is on saving properties.

“We’re not going to speculate on dollar values,” said Fentie. “That’s an unknown. You can’t get money out when you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The territory can apply to the federal government for help through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement, a cost-sharing program that provides money for victims of floods, fires or other disasters.

Cottages do not qualify for assistance under the program, according to the public safety department.

But people whose primary residence is in the Southern Lakes region would qualify for financial aid.

Flood insurance is not offered for residential properties in Canada, so any financial support would come from governments.

Some people are surprised to learn they don’t have flood insurance, said Lindsay Olson, vice-president for Insurance Bureau of Canada Pacific Region.

“People will spend hours buying a new TV set, but they don’t spend a fraction of that time to sit down and figure out what they’re covered for,” said Olson.

For people living near flood-prone areas, the chance for property damage is high.

“It’s not a matter of might it happen,” said Olson. “If it’s a floodplain it will happen; it’s just a matter of time.

  “(Flood insurance) would be so expensive, very few people would take it. The reason for that is only those people who are in harm’s way would choose to take it. People who live on top of the hill would say they don’t need it.”

After the Red River flood in Manitoba, one entrepreneur started offering flood insurance. He sold about 50 policies, but the venture only lasted 18 months.

That was because they were so expensive, said Olson.

Flood insurance is offered to commercial properties, but only because business owners are more willing to absorb the high cost, whereas individual consumers aren’t as willing, Olson said.

The territorial government will assess all damage after water levels have receded and will then make a decision about applying for assistance, said Fentie.

Territories and provinces design and administer federal financial aid based on their particular circumstances.

If costs exceed what the territorial government can handle, it can apply to Ottawa, which will review the request and decide if, when and how much aid to provide.

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