Province (New Brunswick) works on some financial relief for cottagers devastated by flood

Cottagers whose properties have been damaged by major flooding this spring could be getting some financial assistance from the province, given the economic impact of cottages and summer tourism on surrounding areas, Premier Brian Gallant said Wednesday.

"This is about just doing everything we can to try and get our province and the people impacted back to normal, Gallant said in an interview.

Last week, the province launched a financial aid program for people affected by severe flooding this spring — a program set by the federal government, which pays for about 90 per cent of its costs.

Gallant initially said the disaster financial assistance program would be available for individuals, small businesses and municipalities that suffered property damage when water in the lower St. John River basin rose to historic levels.

"There's no doubt we should be investing more of the recovery into people that, it's their primary residence," he said.

At the same time, some of the hardest hit people are cottage owners.

Seasonal and recreational properties all along the St. John River, Grand Lake other waters in the river basin have been destroyed or heavily damaged, but federal funding for disaster relief only applies to primary residences.

"If the federal government were to expand the criteria and include recreational properties, we would be glad to match that," Gallant said.

If it doesn't, he said, something will be worked out.

"We understand that a lot of recreational properties have been impacted in a very significant way," he said.

"We recognize this is going to cause a lot of financial hardship."

Although it will be on a smaller scale than what homeowners get, Gallant suggested some form of help will likely be offered to the owners of cottages and recreational properties.

Taken together, the impact of the damage in places such as Grand Lake will extend to the economy of the area, he said.

"There's an important, seasonal cottage-type economy that happens in that area and we shouldn't take that lightly in our considerations," he said.

Although a rough figure is still unknown, Gallant said, the extent of the damage will be high, since this has been the "largest, most impactful flood in the province's history."

In 2008, the flood caused more than $23 million damage.

Some options for softening the blow to cottage owners have been discussed and will be taken to cabinet soon, he said, without elaborating on the timeline.

"If there is a program, we would not see a program to the same magnitude as the disaster financial assistance for residential homes," Gallant said.

"With that said, we do want to lend a helping hand."

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