Aid for hail dam­age called too lit­tle

Prov­ince cov­ers over­land flood­ing, many in north­east ‘no bet­ter off’

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - ALANNA SMITH

Com­mu­nity ac­tivist Khalil Kar­bani says Cal­gary res­i­dents rav­aged by a mas­sive hail­storm ear­lier this month are still fac­ing fi­nan­cial hard­ship de­spite the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s newly an­nounced dis­as­ter re­lief pro­gram.

On Thurs­day, Premier Ja­son Ken­ney said the Alberta gov­ern­ment would provide dis­as­ter re­lief fund­ing for unin­sur­able loss and dam­age from the storm, which left nu­mer­ous homes and ve­hi­cles bat­tered by tor­ren­tial rain­fall and large hail on June 13.

Busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als can ap­ply for fund­ing if the dam­age is re­lated to over­land flood­ing. It will not in­clude hail, sewer backup or in­sur­ance de­ductibles, which the gov­ern­ment said is “con­sid­ered rea­son­ably and read­ily avail­able” un­der in­sur­ance cov­er­age.

Kar­bani said the an­nounce­ment is dis­ap­point­ing and heart­break­ing, es­pe­cially for res­i­dents in the north­east who faced the brunt of the storm.

“We are no bet­ter off than we were yes­ter­day in des­per­ate hopes for this an­nounce­ment,” he said Thurs­day.

“It’s killing us from the in­side out right now that we elect th­ese of­fi­cials to rep­re­sent us and half of them are not rep­re­sent­ing us. When they do come back to us, try­ing to sweeten us with sweet words, it re­ally doesn’t mean any­thing.”

Kar­bani’s Taradale house was one of thou­sands dam­aged by the storm, which shat­tered win­dows, shred­ded sid­ing, flooded base­ments and left nu­mer­ous ve­hi­cles with deep dents and smashed glass.

Kar­bani said the ma­jor­ity of res­i­dents weren’t af­fected by over­land flood­ing, mean­ing the prov­ince’s fund­ing an­nounce­ment does lit­tle, if any­thing, to help Cal­gar­i­ans rack­ing up hefty bills with in­sur­ance de­ductibles and prop­erty de­pre­ci­a­tion.

He hoped the prov­ince would an­nounce cov­er­age re­lated to de­val­u­a­tion.

Cal­gary, Air­drie and Rocky View County will be ben­e­fi­cia­ries of fund­ing pro­vided through the Alberta dis­as­ter re­cov­ery pro­gram, al­lo­cated af­ter the prov­ince de­clared the hail­storm a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter. Ken­ney said the pack­age will be ex­pe­dited to aid those in need.

“Nearly 400 homes and small busi­nesses suf­fered some over­the-sur­face flood dam­age, at least 20 were filled to the main floor with wa­ter and 15,000 homes were with­out power for a pe­riod,” he said.

How­ever, most dam­age to homes and busi­nesses, as well as ve­hi­cles, will be cov­ered by pri­vate in­sur­ance, Ken­ney added. Al­ber­tans who have not in­sured their prop­erty or don’t have “ad­e­quate in­sur­ance” are not el­i­gi­ble for fund­ing.

Cal­gary Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi wel­comes the fund­ing to fix dam­aged city in­fra­struc­ture but said there needs to be fur­ther con­ver­sa­tions on how to as­sist res­i­dents.

“While we have to abide by the prin­ci­ple here that dis­as­ter re­lief should be for unin­sured losses, we also have to be hu­man be­ings about this,” said Nen­shi. “We have to be un­der­stand­ing that in a time of COVID-19, a time of re­ces­sion, peo­ple have lost their work.”

He said the city is hear­ing from many res­i­dents who have it “tough,” in­clud­ing one Cal­gar­ian who has about $16,000 in ap­praised dam­age, only $6,000 of which will be cov­ered by in­sur­ance be­cause of var­i­ous de­duc­tions and de­ductibles.

“Who amongst us can just find $10,000?” asked Nen­shi.

“If peo­ple are putting that on a credit card at 22 per cent in­ter­est, if they are bor­row­ing the money from a pay­day loan com­pany, I worry that’s re­ally go­ing to put peo­ple into poverty traps that they’ll never be able to get out of.”

Sim­i­larly, Ward 5 Coun. Ge­orge Cha­hal, whose con­stituents were heav­ily af­fected by the hail­storm, said the dis­as­ter re­lief fund­ing is a “good first step” but other so­lu­tions are needed.

“A lot of peo­ple are in trou­ble,” he said.

“Res­i­dents are say­ing that they’re hav­ing chal­lenges with their in­sur­ance companies, and I think my con­cern is in­sur­ance companies need to act in good faith.”

Ken­ney ac­knowl­edged that many Al­ber­tans are fac­ing ad­ver­sity re­lated to eco­nomic stag­na­tion, the COVID-19 re­ces­sion and col­lapse of en­ergy prices.

How­ever, he said it wouldn’t be re­spon­si­ble for the prov­ince to have tax­pay­ers “bail out the big in­sur­ance companies.”

“If the gov­ern­ment steps in and starts mak­ing pay­ments for in­sur­able pri­vate prop­erty, that would cre­ate a very se­ri­ous moral haz­ard where peo­ple in the fu­ture would say they have no need to in­sure their prop­erty,” said Ken­ney.

He said the In­sur­ance Bureau of Canada’s ini­tial es­ti­mate of in­sured dam­age claims is be­tween $250 mil­lion and $500 mil­lion.

Early es­ti­mates show about $10 mil­lion in costs to the City of Cal­gary re­lated to the hail­storm, in­clud­ing dam­age to mu­nic­i­pal in­fra­struc­ture and emer­gency re­sponse costs.

Kar­bani said his com­mu­nity “feels lost right now” but he isn’t backing down.

“We’re not giv­ing up. We’re go­ing to keep lob­by­ing lo­cal MLAS, keep ask­ing the city,” he said. “Even if it means go­ing di­rectly to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, that’s what we’ll do.”

To ap­ply for the dis­as­ter re­cov­ery fund­ing, visit alberta.ca/drp

DAR­REN MAKOWICHUK

Saddle Ridge home­owner Dave Re­ichert looks over the hail dam­age to his house Thurs­day from a June 13 storm. The prov­ince will provide fund­ing for unin­sur­able loss and dam­age caused by the storm.

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