Fewer than 70 claims have been made under the province’s disaster relief program, following a devastating June 13 Calgary hail storm.
Meanwhile, according to the province, 70,000 insurance claims from the storm have been made.
Houses, property, and vehicles were left in ruins after tennis-ball-sized hail pummelled the area. Area residents were left picking up after the storm, worried about large insurance deductibles with many facing loss of income due to COVID-19.
Insured damages totalled $1.2 billion, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Community leaders, led by a letter from Khalil Karbani, pressed the province to provide further aid to northeast Calgary homeowners.
On June 25, Premier Jason Kenney opened up the province’s disaster relief program, allowing residents to apply for uninsured damages. Premier Kenney said at the time that he didn’t want to bail out insurance companies from covering the cost of the damages.
Many residents were left wondering what would be covered as “uninsured.”
Since then, Karbani said the province has been giving the residents a “run around.”
“The federal government actually told us that they’re waiting for this application to come through from the provincial government. But they haven’t made that application, as of yet,” he said.
“It’s really sad because it’s been a month in and we’re not seeing anything being done.”
So far, 67 claims have been made to the province’s disaster relief fund, the province said.
Residents say they’re considering moving
One northeast Calgary resident, whose name is being withheld due to a personal situation, is one of the many considering moving out of the northeast and Calgary in general.
Before the pandemic, she worked as an accounts payable clerk in the oil and gas sector. She then developed an autoimmune disease called primary biliary cholangitis which resulted in her needing a liver transplant.
While she was in the hospital, COVID-19 hit and she lost her job. She’s unable to return to work because her health could quickly deteriorate.
Any job she secures would make her ineligible for disability fixed income. She said that would leave her unable to provide for her two small kids.
To make matters worst, the hail storm completely totaled her 2014 Mazda CX5. She’d just removed the comprehensive insurance coverage off to save some money.
Now she is left with no job, an inability to work, a constant health crisis, no vehicle, and a battered home.
‘I love it here, but can I afford to live here?’
She said that people online and on social media have no concept of how this community has been devastated. She’s been frustrated by online comments about the northeast Calgary.
“I had to take a break from Facebook because I was hurt. Some of the comments on there so cruel. I get it, you guys are bored, you’re at home and you’re already angry but don’t take it out on the less fortunate,” she said.
“What people don’t understand is like we’re in the middle of a pandemic. A lot of hard-working people did not have a choice but to sit at home.”
This resident has lived in the northeast for many years but now is considering moving away from Calgary. The toll of the storms and lack of government support is leaving her with little choice, she said.
“Like were just such a beautiful community and we stick together and when this happened, everybody on the streets was out and they were helping each other,” she said.
“It’s really sad and I worry about Calgary. I’ve been living here for a very very long time and I’m at a point now it’s like ‘do I stay?’ I love it here but can I afford to live here?”
What the community wants to see from the province
The lack of further support to help Calgarians in the northeast has prompted Karbani to pen another letter on behalf of residents and 24 other community organizations.
It outlines what they’d hope to see from the province to address the situation.
“We welcomed your announcement on Thursday June 26th, 2020 [sic] for disaster relief but were surprised and disappointed to see that it will help fewer than 2.5% of affected residents. While they are relieved, so many of the other 97.5% wonder how they will get beyond financial ruin,” the letter reads.
“We are asking you to re-evaluate your announcement and create a plan that will truly help.”
COVID-19 has put a strain on the community and with this hail storm, Karbani said people need immediate help.
“With COVID, a lot of people have been laid off and with the oil prices plummeting, it’s got such a knock-on effect. Now, for us to take out another six, eight, 10, 12 thousand, whatever the sum may be out of our pockets is really, really hurting,” he said.
“I’ve even been told by people that this province is not worth living in anymore and they need to move. But you know what, it’s a good place to live, a good place to bring up your kids and it’s unfortunate that we live in this ‘hell alley’ with no support.”