Fraser Valley evacuees still waiting for financial assistance from province

Residents on Sumas Prairie are still waiting for funds from BC's Disaster Financial Assistance program to rebuild their homes

By Grace Kennedy | January 20, 2022 |5:05 am

Two months after being evacuated, some residents on Sumas Prairie and elsewhere are still waiting for funding from the government to help them rebuild their homes—and the province says they may have to wait longer still.

During November’s flooding and landslides, BC opened up its disaster financial assistance program to residents who had been evacuated or whose properties sustained damage. One woman, who lived in the former Sumas Lake bed, applied with her husband in early December, hoping for funding to help rebuild their home. But, more than a month later, she still hasn’t heard back.

“We haven’t heard anything from them,” the woman said. (She asked to not be identified because of her job.) “Any work that has been done is out of our own pocket, which is a difficult situation to be in.”

“We’re getting more financial support from the Red Cross and family and friends and random people than from the government right now,” her husband added. “Looking at your paycheck and seeing a third of your paycheck is going to… taxes, and we’re not seeing any of that. It’s kind of frustrating.”

The Red Cross funding the couple was promised is part of a joint program between the charity and the province, with each contributing $1,000 to families who had been evacuated during the disaster. Approximately $13.7 million has already been distributed by the Red Cross to nearly 7,000 evacuated households. (Anyone who was evacuated from their home and has not registered with the Red Cross should do so to receive the funding.)

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According to Emergency Management BC, there have been a significant number of people applying to the disaster financial assistance program. That, combined with the severity of the disaster, means that claims are taking longer to process. The province did say it is working to speed up the process, largely by hiring more staff to do site inspections and adjudicate claims, although a spokesperson did not specify when most applicants would expect to receive their funding. The province has also streamlined the intake process to help move people into the queue faster.

Applications for the program will remain open until March 9, and anyone who was affected between Nov. 14 and Dec. 2 can apply as an individual, a charity, a small business owner, or a farmer. EMBC said the province is currently working with the federal government to create a “comprehensive funding package” for farmers affected by the disaster. Applications for that program are expected to open in the next few weeks.

The province refused to say when applicants could expect to receive their funding. While they wait for financial help to begin rebuilding their home, the Sumas Prairie couple is arranging their own finances in the event that provincial support doesn’t come through in time.

“We have to prepare to pay it [entirely] out of pocket… Because at some point you have to do something.”

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Grace Kennedy

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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