Halifax to pay out $10 million to storm victims

(CNN) — Nova Scotia residents could receive about $10 million in disaster relief payments after November’s record-breaking storm, Halifax Regional Council members announced on Thursday. The Category 4 “bomb cyclone” that swept across northern…

Halifax to pay out $10 million to storm victims

(CNN) — Nova Scotia residents could receive about $10 million in disaster relief payments after November’s record-breaking storm, Halifax Regional Council members announced on Thursday.

The Category 4 “bomb cyclone” that swept across northern Nova Scotia on November 19 left more than 100,000 customers without power and blocked roads for days, forcing officials to cancel school and shut down ferry services.

In an effort to rebuild the community, Halifax Regional Council members have identified residents of 14 affected communities as eligible for up to $5,000 in essential expenses to be paid out of the local hazard mitigation fund over a two-year period.

Council members voted unanimously to recommend that the region’s Emergency Management Office provide up to $4 million and an additional $1 million to the Halifax Catholic District School Board, of which Halifax Central is a part, to compensate them for the lost education cost.

“I think it’s important to have some compensation for the school board,” said Halifax Regional Councilman John Cantwell. “It took its toll on the teachers, the students and the staff.”

The storm knocked out power to 100,000 homes in the region and shut down ferry services. CNN

The Halifax Catholic District School Board declined to comment, but a spokesperson for the Halifax Catholic School Trustees’ Association, which represents 1,800 principals and teachers, said the funds would not have offset the extent of the storm’s damage.

“The total damages to our school buildings and related amenities would likely have put the final compensation amount in the millions,” Scott Lindsay said in an email.

The Halifax Regional Council also considered endorsing Nova Scotia’s Red Cross disaster program, but ultimately elected against it, according to Cantwell.

The Red Cross will provide some $1 million to eligible storm victims, according to Ian Lapine, a spokesperson for the organization. The disaster program is not guaranteed to cover all eligible expenses, but Lapine said it would provide 10 times more money than the Halifax Regional Council would.

Stephen McNeil, Nova Scotia’s premier, praised the local council’s decision to approve the money.

“Investing in our community is not something you do at the last minute,” McNeil said in a statement Thursday. “But communities like Halifax Central and Yarmouth would have been left without critical supports had we not taken this step in these extraordinary circumstances.”

The recovery program, which will help people pay to replace destroyed personal property, will apply to storm victims whose homes and vehicles are in uninhabitable condition, according to Cantwell.

The storm caused more than $50 million in damage to properties and $30 million in property and business damage in Yarmouth, according to a report by the region’s Fire Chief John Kemp.

Even with the province’s recovery program in place, not all Nova Scotians will be able to claim benefits.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, only about one-third of Nova Scotians are insured through the province. Most who aren’t, are located in rural areas, and the program is available to them, but residents who live in cities, near the coast or the mountains are not eligible.

Even for those residents, there are limitations: Homeowners who received their insurance notices after the storm would not be eligible for the disaster relief program. However, those receiving their insurance notices more than two months after the storm would be eligible.

For that reason, Cantwell said he thinks the program should apply to more residents.

“We need to move that threshold up a bit, especially for older individuals who don’t have a lot of assets,” he said.

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