NWT providing more cash for flood damage and mitigation
Hay River and Kátł’odeeche First Nation residents whose property was severely damaged by flooding this spring can now access more money than was previously the case.
Under rules that were revised on Tuesday, residents and businesses with eligible damage claims exceeding $240,000 can now receive the full $240,000 plus half of any claim exceeding that figure, up to a total payout of $600,000.
As announced immediately following the flooding, residents could already receive up to 90 percent of claims below and up to $240,000.
Anyone affected can also access to up to $75,000 for mitigation efforts, such as elevating a home, moving furniture and mechanical systems out of basements, and installing water-resistant building materials. Residents need approval for any such mitigation work from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs before changes are made.
The Town of Hay River has estimated repairing flood-damaged municipal facilities and infrastructure will cost around $22 million and mitigation work will cost another $30 million, a bill expected to be covered largely by Maca’s disaster assistance policy and private insurance claims.
There is no limit on disaster assistance provided to community governments.
‘Where’s the money?’
Maca minister Shane Thompson first announced the updated policy at a meeting organized by MLAs in Hay River on Monday night.
“Now people are getting excited about the next step, which is, where’s the money?” Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson told Cabin Radio, explaining residents want to start repairing their homes.
“Not everybody has money or resources to cover the cost.”
In a briefing on Tuesday morning, Maca deputy minister Laura Gareau said anyone needing immediate financial support to complete repairs may be eligible to apply for advance funding once a damage assessment is received. You can expect to receive this money within a week of your application being approved.
Gareau said if you have already completed your repairs, and you have saved your receipts and documentation, you should fill out a claim for disaster assistance.
“Once we receive a completed claim, we typically process payments within 30 days,” she said.
Maca said there are three territorial employees dubbed “pathfinders” stationed in Hay River to help you access support.
“We are assessing whether or not we need to put more pathfinders on the ground and we’ll definitely do so if we need to,” Gareau said.
Of 408 registrations for disaster assistance so far, about 350 detailed damage assessments have been completed.
A quarter of those assessments calculated more than $240,000 in damages. The remainder of the assessments came in at an average of $120,000.
Gareau said preliminary spill assessment work has determined there are about 50 sites with oil or fuel contamination. The GNWT will be paying for any associated cleanup.
The disaster assistance program will be open until December 21, 2023.
“This is to give the GNWT, community governments, residents and small businesses two construction seasons to undertake repairs and for everyone to file disaster assistance claims,” Gareau explained.
“The big problem is that to go in and rebuild is one thing, but what do you rebuild to?” Simpson said. “We need some flood mapping.”
Hay River’s senior administrative officer, Glenn Smith, said the flood maps the town uses are from the 1980s.
He said discussions with the GNWT and federal government about updated flood mapping were under way just prior to this year’s spring break-up.
“It continues to be something we do want to see updated, and will become important based on the unprecedented flooding this year,” Smith said.
In Maca’s briefing on Tuesday, Gareau said the flood mapping process has started.
“Staff from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources were in both communities as soon as it was safe for them to go in, to do the staking that is required to indicate … how high the water got,” she said.
“We’re in the process of hiring an external contractor to now go in and finish the GPS mapping.”
Gareau expects that process to be completed over the summer.
Until new flood mapping is made available, Gareau said residents should use what she described as an abundance of “anecdotal evidence,” including water lines on buildings and other forms of documentation.
She added that many mitigation measures in homes or businesses do not depend on the results of flood mapping.