'Denied again': Albertans say emergency isolation payment still causing headaches
CALGARY -- A system put in place to provide much-needed financial support to Albertans is causing headaches across the province.
Last week, the UCP government announced Emergency Isolation Support for those who have experienced loss of income due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
The program aims to provide $1,146 to any Albertan who has completely or partially lost income because they were required to self-isolate or are the sole caregiver of someone in self-isolation.
The funding is meant to bridge the gap until the federal government expands employment insurance benefits.
But while the system has provided more than 65,000 people with the emergency fund, thousands more claim they are frozen in various stages of the application process.
CTV News has received dozens of complaints this week from Calgarians who were unable to receive the money even though, according to the provincial requirements, they are eligible. Thousands are stuck in the application website’s queue, while many others are unable to clear a step in the process that requires them to create a personal ID.
Dozens still, like Calgary’s Brian Martell, say after a week of trying, they were denied with little explanation.
“I filled in all the information as truthfully as I could,” Martell said. “But I got a punch in the gut when it said ‘oh, you’re not eligible.’”
Martell, who called the process a “headache,” says he spent eight days attempting to navigate through the site to get the payment.
But after his effort, on Wednesday he received an email telling him he was ineligible — with no further details given.
“They’re fumbling the ball a bit and adding stress and anxiety when they could be taking it away,” he said. “I needed that money.”
Martell said after he was denied, he logged on to social media to research why.
That’s when he says he started talking to friends and family who had received the payment — and they gave him some advice. Many of the denied applications were spaced out along the calendar; the criteria says you must have self-isolated within two weeks of the application being filed. Martell says a date change on his second round of paperwork — a date that was in the 14 day period around his new application — changed his no to a yes.
Thursday, he was given confirmation his money was on the way.
The province couldn’t say how many Albertans had tried to access the one-time payment, but the finance minister acknowledged the difficulties Wednesday.
“I recognize the demand for this program has been overwhelming and it has created challenges with the system,” Travis Toews said inside the legislature. “My advice to those who have attempted and failed is to try again and keep trying.”
Premier Jason Kenney has also said the government is working to fix glitches.