Aid for hail damage called too little
Province covers overland flooding, many in northeast ‘no better off’
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
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.