FREDERICTON (GNB) – A Disaster Financial Assistance program has been launched by the provincial government to help individuals, small businesses and municipalities cope with property damage from this year’s spring freshet. This year’s program will include increased advance payments to ensure residents can return to their homes as soon as possible.

Significant flooding affected communities throughout New Brunswick. Damage to private infrastructure, such as homes, and public infrastructure, such as roads, has already been reported.

“Together, we made major efforts to plan for, prepare for and respond to the flood,” said Public Safety Minister Carl Urquhart. “Residents, volunteers, first responders and the military worked to protect lives and property. Despite that work, there was damage. To help those impacted by flooding, the provincial government promotes recovery through emergency housing and Red Cross help, free services from the government such as health and safety inspections and debris removal, and, today, a Disaster Financial Assistance program for affected property owners, including increased advance payments for affected property owners.”

The government will also examine how future risks can be mitigated.

“We are committed to developing a long-term plan to better address the impact of flooding in our province,” said Urquhart. “We need to think about things like how we use federal, provincial and municipal resources better and faster to adapt and reduce risk; where we build and how we build; and promoting good decisions by governments, companies and residents about future disaster risks of all kinds.”

The program provides assistance for eligible damage and losses that threaten the health and safety of individuals, small businesses and municipalities. The maximum assistance for structural repairs to private residences is $160,000, while the maximum for small businesses and not-for-profit organizations is $500,000. Coverage is provided to repair and clean structures and to replace basic necessities. Assistance is not available for recreational properties. But all property owners affected by flooding can access free services offered by government, including free wellwater testing, roadside collection of flood debris and the waiving of fees for electrical system reconnections.

How to apply

A Disaster Financial Assistance package will be mailed to those who have already registered their damages.

People who were impacted but did not register their damages may register with Service New Brunswick online or by calling 1-888-298-8555. Once they have registered, an application package will be mailed to them.

The deadline for homeowners, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations to submit damage registrations is June 15 and the deadline for them to submit Disaster Financial Assistance application is Aug. 30.

Additional information on the program is available online.

Residents and small businesses that are eligible to receive assistance are subject to paying a deductible. For individual homeowners the deductible is $1,000 and for small businesses the deductible is $5,000. The deductible is automatically waived for social services clients. Requests for waiver may also be considered from those who are experiencing severe financial hardship.

Advance payments available

Past claimants have said that access to more advance funding would have helped expedite their return home. For that reason, the government is increasing advance funding to $15,000.

Advance payments against the total value of an eligible claim may be authorized to help pay for work that will enable owners to reoccupy their property as quickly as possible. Advance payments may not exceed half the total estimated value of damages and may not exceed $15,000. An application form and more information on advance payments will be available online and will be delivered by health and safety teams that inspect homes.

Property buyouts offered

Buyouts are offered in cases where structural damages exceed 80 per cent of the appraised value of the property. In such cases it may be more beneficial to both parties if the government purchases the property to avoid recurring costs from future flooding. The purchase price will be fair market value based on a pre-event real estate appraisal or, in some cases, the property tax assessment, but will not exceed individual or small business maximum amounts.

Claimants who refuse a buyout can sell dwellings on the property to government and keep the land or take a payout for repairs. In both cases, claimants who refuse the buyout will not be eligible for future Disaster Financial Assistance programs.

Report damages

The first step that residents must take to access financial assistance is to report damages related to the current spring freshet by calling 1-888-298-8555 or by registering damages online.

The Service New Brunswick TeleServices line will be available to receive calls between 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. from Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

The Damage Report Line program will allow residents, tenants, small businesses, not-for-profit organizations and local government representatives to receive information and register their flood-related damage with a single phone call.

The damage assessments will be reviewed, and health and safety inspection teams will be dispatched.

Call your insurance company first

Contact your insurance company first to determine if the damage is already covered. You may have coverage for some of your losses and your insurer can act on your claim right away. If the damage is not covered under an insurance policy, contact the recovery team at the Department of Public Safety’s Emergency Measures Organization so the eligibility can be assessed.

The following are examples of what can be claimed:

Uninsurable losses or damage. If major damage to your main residence prevents you from returning to your home for safety or hygiene reasons, you must first contact your insurance company to make a claim. If your insurer refuses to pay for damage, you may apply to the Disaster Financial Assistance program. Your situation will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. However, your insurer will have to provide documentation to justify why they refused to cover your damages. The fact that you do not have home insurance does not make you automatically eligible for the program. If insurance was affordably available to you, and you chose not to purchase it, your losses will not be eligible.

Cleaning debris on your property. You must submit pictures of damage (broken trees, for example) before and after cleaning. If you do the cleaning yourself, keep a cleaning work registry. This means tracking the date, the name of the person who worked, the number of hours worked on that day and a description of the work performed. Write down the information for each person and every day worked that was necessary to complete the cleaning. If you used the services of a professional team, the cleaning bill will be refunded.

Food loss is considered an insurable loss and is not eligible for Disaster Financial Assistance. Residents should ask their insurance providers to cover this cost.

The Schedule of Loss is available online and includes information on the maximum amounts provided to replace basic essentials such as furniture and appliances.

In case of issues with the insurer, call the Office of the Consumer Advocate for Insurance at 1-888-283-5111.

From 2008 to 2018, 13 natural disasters involving flooding have occurred in New Brunswick, resulting in more than $284 million being spent on disaster recovery activities.

Earlier this week, the government announced other initiatives to help residents in flood-affected areas.

Consult the Flood Recovery for your Home or Business guide for tips on cleaning up after a flood and Disaster Financial Assistance. You may also call 1-888-553-8558 if you have questions.

Health and safety inspections

Health and safety inspections will assess damage and determine what repairs are required for residents to return to their homes.

Health and safety inspection teams will assess the damages to determine whether a home or place of business is safe enough for residents or owners to stay or to return. The special skills of these team members will allow them to effectively determine if repairs are needed and to inspect the electrical system to ensure that it is safe for NB Power to restore electricity.

When residents or business owners register for the program, they will be asked questions about their circumstances. If an inspection is required, it will be scheduled.