Better support needed for Canadians still relying on EI: Federal NDP

THE federal NDP on Tuesday pushed back against busy signals and dropped calls at Service Canada.

It said that although the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has all but replaced Employment Insurance (EI) benefits for most people during the pandemic, EI paperwork and reporting requirements continue to delay financial support for many Canadians.

“We keep hearing from Canadians who are trying to fill out their paperwork in good faith, are asked to contact EI to clarify a detail or two and then have to spend hours, days, or even weeks on hold trying to get through,” said NDP Critic for Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Daniel Blaikie (Elmwood-Transcona). “It is an infuriating experience in an already stressful time and it simply should not be happening.”

He said the government’s response to the problem – an on-line 48-hour call back request system – has so far failed to address the problem, in part because the agents returning the phone calls are not authorized to make changes to the application form directly. Canadians can get useful information from the call back, but still have to reach EI on the main line to resolve the issue.

“If the government cannot adequately staff the EI phone line, they should be taking action now to waive reporting requirements that do not apply during the pandemic,” said Blaikie. “That would allow the money to flow now. It should be good enough for the government to have people simply file the appropriate information some time before they CERB program has come to an end. Requiring that information right now, without the staff to process it, is delaying vital financial support to Canadians who need it.”