Months after floods wreaked havoc on their homes and businesses, some residents of B.C.’s Sumas Prairie say they’re frustrated by the pace and quantity of government support.
Terry Kozma and Richard Gahwiler said their home and shop was drenched in six feet of water when the catastrophe struck between Nov. 14 and 15, 2021. Since then, they’ve brought a trailer onto the land to live in, the property has been looted, and they’ve only scratched the surface of repairs to the house.
With labour, they need an estimated $25,000, to restore their home, but to date, the pair said they haven’t received any government funds.
“Money would be Arnold Community Church. They’ve come through,” said Kozma. “We had a GoFundMe page that a few of my friends donated to. My daughter’s friends donated.”
British Columbia has an established Disaster Financial Assistance program that, with a $1,000 deductible, can cover up to 80 per cent of the amount of total eligible damage to a maximum of $300,000.
Kozma and Gahwiler have been told it will be an estimated four weeks before their claim is at the top of the pile of more than 2,000 submissions. They submitted their claim on Nov. 24, heard back for the first time on March 11, and had an assessor visit the property the next day.
“He went and took pictures, got me to send pictures, he went through room by room,” she said.
“Anything we lost in our spare bedroom we’re not covered for, anything we lost in the garage we’re not covered for. Pretty much just the kitchen, living room, main bedroom and bathroom.”
Others in the area have been told they’ll be waiting 10 to 12 weeks, said Kozma.
She said she believes there’s a backlog due to the number of claims coming from other flood-impacted communities, including Merritt and Hope, and the Lytton fire disaster last summer.
Gahwiler, who has lived in Sumas Prairie for more than 20 years, said he lost all his tools in the flood. He thinks it will be another two months before they can move back into the house, he added.
“I’ve seen other houses in the area, they’re not even in their property, waiting probably on the government.” he told Global News. “If we were waiting for the government, we wouldn’t be anywhere right now.”
Victoria Kuit of the Yarrow Food Hub said she doesn’t know anyone in Abbotsford that’s received the amount of financial assistance they were hoping for from the provincial government. She said she hears complaints from the community about the assistance program “daily.”
“One lady told me yesterday, she was expecting about $25,000, she’s a renter, and she got $6,000,” she told Global News. “I’m not really sure what $6,000 was going to do to help her refurnish a living room, her son’s room, the kitchen and everything.”
Kuit said to her knowledge, most people are qualifying to have 30 per cent of their losses covered and it’s taking months to get cash in hand.
“I’ve heard there’s only a few adjustors working on this so maybe if our government could hire a few more people and get some more boots on the ground up here and get it moving a little bit faster, it might be a little bit less frustrating.”
On Thursday, Emergency Management BC confirmed nearly $5 million has paid out in disaster relief so far, and it has received near four times more applicants than usual.