Nearly five months after post-tropical storm Fiona devastated the area, some residents of Newfoundland’s southwest coast are still waiting for money from the provincial government to rebuild their lives.
Peggy Moore Savery and her husband are still living in the basement of their niece’s home. Their blue home, demolished and hanging by a thread atop a rock face in Port aux Basques, became a representative image for much of the media coverage during the storm and subsequent days to follow.
“I haven’t been compensated. I still don’t have a home. I haven’t heard from the government in what we’re going to get, and how we’re going to get it and when we’re going to get it,” Savery told CBC News in a recent interview.
“None of us, not one person in all those 100 [homes] have seen a dime from our forms we had to fill out for federal or provincial funding. We have seen a little bit from Red Cross in the very beginning.”
In total, the storm destroyed or damaged more than 250 houses throughout southwestern Newfoundland. The Canadian Red Cross raised millions in relief funds.
Moore Savery said she’s been told some more money is coming from the organization soon but not enough for people to move forward with their lives.
She said there has been no indication on what those affected will be able to do, whether it’s building or buying a new home, or what they’ll be able to afford.
“Up to this point, many of us haven’t heard a word,” Moore Savery said.
Energy Minister Andrew Parsons, who is the MHA for that district, acknowledged the residents’ frustration.
He said first cheques have been delivered but the holdup is ensuring transparency and accountability for the $30 million in public money being used to help those affected. That money is separate from the Red Cross funds, which Parsons said was used in the early days after the disaster to help people land on their feet.
“We had to actually come up with the program that we’re using. So right now I know it’s taking some time but people are seeing it come in, people have had meetings they’re signing the letters,” Parsons said Thursday.
“In many cases we’ve gone out and actually hired legal counsel to help people understand, to know what they’re doing. I know it’s not fast enough but I also think, when you think about it, it’s a very generous package from government, which legally was not required.”
Dorothy Bragg is also stuck in limbo. Her house, where she’d lived for 49 years, was condemned about five days after the storm because of extensive damage to the foundation.
Bragg said she and her family lived with her brother, then in their cabin for the first five weeks after Fiona. They moved into a hotel as the weather turned cold.
“We’re hoping that by next fall we’ll have a place to live in what we call home,” Bragg said.
“We worked hard for what we had. And to see it all destroyed, it was terrible and it hurts to even look at it right now. Right now it’s still standing, but it’s going to be demolished.”
She said she wasn’t anticipating to have received any money yet but had expected an answer by now from the government on what her family will get for compensation.
Taking time to get it right: Parsons
Parsons said the process isn’t as simple as writing a cheque; multiple insurance adjusters have been involved since the process started in November and the provincial government wants to make sure they’re getting things right.
He said there’s a waiting process as adjusters finish their work, and new files are coming through his office every day.
“There are people that have been down at my office, signing off and sending their forms back and many of them are extremely happy, given the circumstances,” said Parsons.
“Everything has to be scrutinized. There will be an auditor general looking at this, so I would rather take a little bit of time to get it right.”
Moore Savery said some people can’t afford to wait and are taking on new mortgages and debt because they simply need a place to live. She said Newfoundland and Labrador Housing is providing rent money but people are ready to move on with their lives.
“We can’t move ahead until we know what we’re working with,” she said.
“We’re older and for us to start over at our age, it’s really difficult, because we don’t know where to start because we haven’t any indication of what we’re going to do or how we’re going to get there.”
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