Heather Pugh left her home on Douglas Harbour, east of Fredericton, on May 1. The water level around her home was rising, and the only way to get out was by boat.
When she returned to examine the extent of the damage later that week, she found her garage and family room had been destroyed. A wind storm after the floods knocked her patio door down, letting water seep inside the house. Her garage had moved several feet, with one of its walls badly damaged.
“It was one of the worst days of my life,” the 64-year-old retired widow said. The waterfront property has been in the family since the 1960s and has never experienced damage like that of earlier this year. Three months later, Ms. Pugh is still not back in her home.
As with Ms. Pugh, some homeowners across New Brunswick are still in limbo. Communities around the Saint John River in the province’s southern region battled with rising water levels, the likes of which had not been seen since 2008. The strong wind storm added to the damage. Premier Brian Gallant told reporters at the time that residents should “prepare for the worst."
As a result of the floods, New Brunswick announced a federally backed disaster financial assistance (DFA) program for uninsurable losses of up to $160,000 for each primary residence or non-profit organization, and $500,000 for each small business. But some, such as Ms. Pugh, have yet to receive their full payment.
After consulting insurance companies, Ms. Pugh said she estimates the damages to her home at about $115,000. She pays for overland water insurance, which covers up to $30,000 in damages. She said the province has estimated she is entitled to about $40,000 in assistance, leaving about $40,000 worth of repairs that she has to cover herself. “I feel like I’m being penalized because I have insurance," Ms. Pugh said.
“I really don’t know what I’m going to do, because I can’t afford that debt,” she said.
Alexandra Davis, a spokesperson for New Brunswick’s justice department, which operates the province’s Emergency Measures Organization, said in an e-mail: “The DFA program is not an insurance program." It is to aid in recovery from a disaster, and “is a program of last resort,” she said.
Assessors from the Canadian Independent Adjusters Association appraise individual assistance claims, Ms. Davis said. Claims are set after examining what basic assistance can be provided at market costs. “For example, a hardwood floor would not be replaced at cost, but assistance for basic linoleum flooring would be offered. The cost of a basic small television would be covered, but a second television for the home may not be covered," Ms. Davis said.
Ms. Davis added that insurance reduces the amount of taxpayer-funded assistance. She did not provide specifics on response time for each claim, but said it varies based on the complexity.
A total of 12,947 properties were affected by flooding, Ms. Davis said, and the province has received 808 applications for assistance. Ms. Davis said the province does not have exact numbers of residents who haven’t returned to their homes yet, but 25 families are still in temporary housing provided by the Canadian Red Cross.
Ms. Pugh has been renting a neighbour’s home across the street as she waits for her repairs to be complete. She anticipates that will take another three weeks. On top of delays from the province, Ms. Pugh said the lack of available contractors has lengthened the process.
She said the situation has been highly stressful and has left her feeling homeless.
“I just really thought it would be a week or two, until the water receded," Ms. Pugh said. “You never realize how much damage water can cause."