'They have abandoned us': Frustrated flood victims still waiting for promised government help

For Joanne Beaulieu, the last 10 weeks have been a nightmare.

“Pure hell. It’s been depressing. We’re angry,” said Beaulieu.

Since historic floods ravaged Sumas Prairie in December, residents like Beaulieu say they have been living in limbo. They say promised help from the province’s financial disaster relief program has not arrived.

“There’s been no government help. No official has been to meet with us. Nobody is explaining what our next steps are,” she said.

“They have abandoned us.”

She says when she asked officials how long she would have to wait for disaster financial assistance, she was told it could be more than a year.

“The delay in payment for helping people rebuild and restore is pathetic,” she said.

Her sentiments are shared by many others on Sumas Prairie, including Jenney Winkelhorst.

“I’m very angry, frustrated, emotional. And the only support we’ve had is through community,” Winkelhorst told CTV News as she stood in her flood-damaged home. She estimates repairs will cost around $150,000.

“We don’t want to just start building and then find out we aren’t going to get any money,” she explained, saying she calls every week to ask about the status of her application.

Residents say because they live on a flood plain, they couldn’t get private insurance. Disaster financial assistance is their only lifeline.

“We applied the day after we left. We are apparently tenth on the list, so I can’t imagine (what it’s like) for people who did not know to apply, who will be waiting for over a year,” she said.

In a statement to CTV News, Emergency Management B.C. says it has no reason to believe it should take a year for property owners to get help through Disaster Financial Assistance.

However, the statement also notes that “due to the extreme nature of this event, we are concerned that Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) claims could take longer to process than in the past as we are hit by a surge of applications.”

A streamlined process and more staffing are being promised.

Emergency Management B.C. also says the average processing time of closed eligible files from initial application through to final payment is taking approximately five weeks.

But the residents CTV News spoke to said they weren’t aware of a single person on Sumas Prairie who had received the funding. CTV News asked Emergency Management how many residents on Sumas had been given money through the program, but did not get a response by deadline.

Residents say the funding delays are another blow in what’s been a traumatizing time in their lives.

Beaulieu runs a farm animal sanctuary and is still struggling with the loss of more than 150 birds as well as 14 cats.

“That’s the part I can’t talk about. I can’t. It’s just too hard and it shouldn’t have happened.” she said as she fought back tears.

Beaulieu says the crisis has pushed her into a tough position. She’s made the difficult decision to sell her farm without doing flood repairs, years before she had any plans of moving.

“We were all forced to make quick decisions, sometimes decisions we didn’t’ want to make,” she said.

“I would be crazy to spend $200,000 that I wouldn’t recoup on the sale value…so now my life is in limbo.”