The holidays can be a time of joy, but also bring a few challenges for families— and this year in particular, COVID-19 is making them even more stressful. British Columbians have been hoping that John Horgan’s promise of a COVID-19 recovery benefit would bring the relief that many families are looking for this holiday season. Unfortunately, as we continue to hear that the application process is much more difficult than advertised, this benefit is starting to sound more and more like the NDP’s Christmas gift that will never come.
To make matters worse, this one-time payment was supposed to be the NDP’s replacement for clawing back 50 per cent of the supplemental COVID-19 Disability Income Assistance from people with disabilities. At a time when many of the people who rely on this funding — including seniors and people with physical and mental disabilities — are isolated at home, often kept apart from their care workers and support groups, this government thought it was a great idea to strip away a guaranteed supply of monthly income and replace it with a whole series of hoops and barriers that make it that much harder to access basic social supports.
And boy, are there some hoops for anyone applying for the benefit. The 3.5 million British Columbians who are eligible have been asked to fill out a lengthy online application that requires income statements, multiple pieces of identification and a lot of personal information, as well as a whole slew of additional documents outside of what was advertised. Within minutes of the site opening, the website crashed. Those British Columbians who have managed to fill everything out are now being notified that their cheques will be delayed by up to five business days, or are stuck in an up to 30 day review. Barely a fraction of British Columbians will see any of this money before Christmas, if any. As one final catch, John Horgan forgot to mention that the cheques will be scaled based on your 2019 income, not your income affected by the 2020 pandemic. Quite the campaign promise!
I am incredibly honoured to be part of a community that has set an example for the rest of Canada on what it means to come together and support one another in a time of crisis. From my family to yours, I would like to wish you all a very safe Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and an incredibly prosperous New Years!
By Dan Davies, MLA for Peace River North