It seems the government has a new strategy to deal with EI recipients - ignoring them!
EI phone ignorance
When filing an online EI report these days, sometimes you will get a "warning" and are told to call a 1-800 number during "office hours."
When you call this number, you hear: "At the moment our call volume is high, we are unable to transfer your call, please try later."
I have called this number at least a hundred times over three weeks and still cannot get through. Will I be denied my benefits with this latest government strategy?
This is not the only example of this. A report from CBC today also details this new strategy.
EI delay leads to shotgun incident
A long wait for Employment Insurance led a P.E.I. man to threaten the safety of himself and others with a shotgun last month, says his lawyer.
Mounting bills led to an emotional breakdown, sayd defence lawyer Trish Cheverie. (CBC)
P.E.I. defence lawyer Trish Cheverie defended the Kensington man in court Thursday.
Cheverie told CBC News her client was so distraught about not being able to make his rent that he grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun and began threatening himself and others in his home. Then he locked himself in a bedroom.
The incident happened on Dec. 7. The man pleaded guilty Thursday to possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. Two other charges were stayed.
Cheverie said her client, who had no criminal record, had been waiting two months for his employment insurance claim to come in.
"The expectations are that when people apply for Employment Insurance, they are entitled to that. That is their money," said Cheverie.
"I just am astonished at the lack of compassion. You know, there is a necessity for these claims to be processed more quickly, and the complaints are met with silence. This is the consequence, very serious consequences for people that can't afford to support and provide for their families without EI."
Tens of thousands of Canadians are experiencing delays in having their EI applications processed, and the Public Service Alliance has been told there is no budget for overtime. The wait for almost 90,000 Canadians is at least 100 days.
Cheverie said her client had given up drinking 20 years ago but had an emotional breakdown after bills started to mount. She is also frustrated her client had difficulties accessing mental health care after the incident.
The man was given a suspended sentence. He will be on probation for 12 months and is prohibited from owning a weapon for five years.
Some waiting for EI looking to social assistance
Many Islanders have been waiting for weeks for their employment insurance claims to be processed and some have decided they can't wait any longer and have been looking for social assistance.
Several people waiting for EI have told CBC News that they've actually been told by Service Canada agents that they should consider applying for social assistance until their EI comes in.
EI is a federal program; the province runs social assistance.
No one with the province was willing to do an interview Wednesday, but a spokesperson said the government is getting enquiries from people waiting for their EI. But there hasn't been a spike in the number of applications.
The wait for EI is supposed to be no more than four weeks.
CBC News talked to one man who's been waiting two and a half months.
Toff Curtis said he was finally ready a couple days ago to consider social assistance.
"I have two little girls, we had an OK Christmas, it wasn't the greatest," Curtis said. "My oldest daughter went to school the first day and they were discussing what they got for Christmas ... and all she could say was that she got some books and a few other little things."
"How do you think that made me feel?" Curtis added, visibly upset.
Curtis was told by Service Canada he should have a decision on his EI application Thursday, so he's held off on applying for social assistance.
"When I was a child, we were on social assistance most of my life, I felt like a second-class citizen, and I never wanted my children to be on it," he said. "That's how bad things have gotten."
The provincial government did say most people waiting for EI wouldn't actually qualify for welfare, at least not until they'd exhausted all their assets.
However, anyone who did get social assistance would have to pay the money back, once their EI finally comes in.
EI queue has ballooned since Service Canada staff cuts
Hundreds of thousands of unemployed Canadians are waiting for the federal government to process their claims for employment insurance – a queue that newly released documents show has doubled since 2007 as Services Canada reduces its staff.
In October of 2007, there were 181,931 people waiting for their claims to be processed, according to documents obtained by The Globe and Mail using federal Access to Information legislation. By October of this year, that number had climbed to 360,481 – and according to past seasonal trends, is likely to be higher now.
Growth in the waiting list for benefits parallels a decline in temporary and permanent staff in the processing centres, with numbers 13 per cent lower than in October, 2007. Hundreds of additional processing agents were hired during the economic downturn of 2008 and 2009 but those people, and others, have since been let go or left without being replaced.
The result has been a system in turmoil, as documented in a series of Globe stories over the past two months. Unemployed people are unable to get through by telephone to find out what is delaying their benefits. The newly released documents reveal wild fluctuations in temporary staff at Service Canada’s call centres where the phone lines as so jammed that just one in three calls is answered.
Many of the unemployed are turning up at Service Canada centres instead and are extremely frustrated. Service Canada workers in a number of cities are reporting receiving threats of violence.
One woman who waited for months for an answer is Lorena Delim, a health-care aide who went on maternity leave a year ago when her son was born. The baby died in August – a tragedy Ms. Delim cannot bring herself to discuss even four months later.
She immediately told Service Canada that the boy had passed away. Because of her fragile emotional state, she was advised to convert some of the remaining months of her maternity leave to disability leave.
Weeks later, she had received no cheque for the period after the baby’s death but she did get a letter from Service Canada telling her she had to pay back more than $500 in benefits.
Ms. Delim tried repeatedly to telephone a government agent to set things straight but could not get past the message machines. More than once she went into the local Service Canada centre in an attempt to resolve the issue. “They e-mailed for the processing centre to call me back but I never heard from them again,” she said in a telephone interview.
Ms. Delim eventually turned to Winnipeg’s Unemployed Help Centre to see if the staff there could get through to Service Canada on her behalf. In the week before Christmas – three weeks after she had returned to her job – she was finally told she would be getting benefits for September and October.
Although the number of people who, like Ms. Delim, are waiting has spiked in 2011, the 248,659 EI claims filed in October were about the same as in Octobers past, the documents obtained by The Globe show.
The documents did not give figures for November and December of 2011. But the records show that the number of Canadians waiting for their first benefits cheque annually jumps by as much as 100,000 during those months as a result of seasonal fluctuations. So the real number of unemployed Canadians currently waiting for their first EI payment could be approaching 500,000.
In response to questions from The Globe, the Human Resources Department said it works to “maintain a flexible and sustainable workforce capacity comprising both permanent and temporary employees, working on a full- or part-time basis.”
Human Resources Minister Diane Finley says fewer people are needed because her department is moving to a more automated system.
But Service Canada workers point out that the system became automated four years ago. And they say the depletion of their ranks means any claim that requires human intervention is taking additional weeks and even months to process.
“I liken this to a ticking time bomb,” says Neil Cohen, the executive director of the Community Unemployed Help Centre in Winnipeg.
“We have clients who are dealing with depression issues who have talked about suicide and those threats have to be taken seriously [as do] threats of violence against Service Canada workers,” Mr. Cohen said. “The federal government has just ignored the problem.”
Of course, with the global United Nations World Government with the IMF, World Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan New World Order openly stealing thousands and trillions and bankrupting the world into third world status, this behavior is not unexpected.