What cottagers need to know about Hurricane Fiona financial relief programs

Newfoundland Photo Courtesy of Catherine Simms/Facebook

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced the creation of the Hurricane Fiona Recovery Fund. The fund includes $300 million that will be used over the next two years to aid those impacted by the post-tropical storm that hit Atlantic Canada and Eastern Quebec on September 24.

In a statement, Trudeau said that the fund will cover the costs of rebuilding businesses, fishing wharves, and other infrastructure not covered under the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA).

The DFAA covers 90 per cent of a province’s expenses following a disaster, including transportation, emergency food, shelter, and restoring or replacing uninsurable dwellings and items, such as books and furnishings. A province is eligible for the DFAA when its own disaster response and recovery program is spending over $1 per capita of the province’s population.

In the case of Hurricane Fiona, financial assistance through the DFAA is limited to those who have their primary residence in the affected province. This means cottagers and other secondary property owners aren’t eligible—unless they live in the province, and then the financial assistance would only apply to their primary residence.

Eligibility for the Hurricane Fiona Recovery Fund is still being ironed out, but it’s likely it will follow the same criteria.

“That is pretty standard for these kinds of programs, in our experience,” said Dan Bedell, a spokesperson for the Red Cross, which is handling the distribution of financial aid to residents in Nova Scotia, PEI, and Newfoundland and Labrador. “It is the case with these three [provinces] that we’re supporting…It’s for people who have been displaced from their primary residence, which means it’s the home that they live in either year-round or the most. It normally does not cover cottages, secondary homes, things like that.”

Nova Scotians whose primary residence is unlivable are eligible for $1,000 through the Red Cross. In Newfoundland and Labrador, households that were evacuated from their primary residence and returned by September 30 are eligible for $1,000, and households that were not able to return by September 30 are eligible for $10,000. In PEI, anyone with a primary residence in the province at the time of the storm is eligible for $250.

In Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, Bedell said you have to show proof of being impacted, but in PEI, “the only criteria [is] that you be a resident of Prince Edward Island at the time, and that you have some photo ID or something that confirms that you are who you say you are,” he said. “Just yesterday, for example, there were about 5,000 [PEI residents] that received an e-transfer. That was about $1.25 million just in one day.”

Each of the three provinces is also offering further financial assistance under the DFAA. Once again, only those with a primary residence in the province are eligible.

In Nova Scotia, the province’s Disaster Financial Assistance Program covers damage to a property owner’s primary residence, clean-up costs, and the loss of uninsurable items, such as appliances and furniture. Up to $200,000 per person is available for these repair and replacement costs. The province makes it clear, though, that insured or insurable items (even if insurance wasn’t purchased) aren’t eligible.

Newfoundland and Labrador has allocated $30 million to aid impacted residents and communities. It will follow similar criteria to Nova Scotia. And PEI has said that the amount allocated to impacted individuals will depend on each unique situation.

Those in need of serious financial assistance should document the damage with pictures and then apply for their province’s financial assistance program through their respective government’s website. Individuals have until January 31, 2023, to apply.

For those looking to apply for the funds being distributed by the Red Cross, Bedell said they can register online or call the Red Cross’ toll-free number at 1-800-863-6582. “As of this morning, we had registered through that process, and this is across the four Atlantic provinces, 30,729 households, which represented 65,613 people. And that number goes up every day as more and more people register,” he said.

As for cottagers, especially those whose primary residence is outside the Atlantic provinces, they’ll have to rely on insurance to cover any damages.

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