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This is a letter we sent out on November 26, 2020

Dear Minister Qualtrough, Minister Hussein, Minister Lebouthillier, and Member of Parliament Richard Cannings:
I am reaching out to you regarding the issue of in-person services for Canada’s Response Benefit claimants and possible solutions moving forward.
I am an advocate at the Penticton & Area Access Centre, a non- profit that aims to alleviate the effects of poverty with marginalized individuals through poverty advocacy, legal advocacy, counselling, and accessing resources in our community. Many of the individuals and families we work with face multiple barriers and struggle to complete government forms and applications due to disability and accessibility reasons. Although a majority of Canadians have access to telephones and computers, this is a very real and tangible obstacle for a sizable population of Canadians such as the ones our organization serves.
Many of the clients we serve worked jobs that are still affected by the COVID closures and need assistance from our office applying for the Canada Response Benefit or Employment Insurance due to lack of in person services being offered at the Government level. There is no opportunity for questions related to the Canada Response Benefit to be answered by a live person in a timely manner. Many individuals who don’t have access to phones or computers come to our offices for assistance with applying for benefits. One numerous occasions I have waited on hold with clients for upwards of two hours to be provided information such as their tax lines in order to apply for a Canada Revenue Agency Account. There have been many times when we have called Canada Revenue Agency with clients that we are disconnected after waiting on hold for long periods of time. Non-profits like ours were already operating at maximum capacity prior to COVID, the closures and reduction in hours of Service Canada has further exacerbated non-profit organizations. With our limited funded capacity, numerous referrals for assistance with accessing CRB benefits and creation of CRA Accounts, and the length of time it takes to assist clients in completing these benefits there may a time in the near future where organizations such as ours will be forced to make difficult decisions and may no longer be able to help with these types of applications. We need a solution to this problem so we can better assist Canadians who are entitled to these benefits.
In the absence of government funded in person support for these programs it would be helpful provide organizations such as ours a direct line to Canada Revenue Agency who’s administering the Canada Response Benefits so we can speak with a live person to get assistance with applications and questions. I know your Government is committed to providing quality and equitable service to all Canadians, particularly those with disability and accessibility challenges. During these unusual and unprecedented times we need creative solutions and action, or help us with another solution. Please hear our request for a direct line to speak with your agents so we can further assist Canadians that are financially vulnerable and on the brink of homelessness access benefits they are entitled to. Please recognize there is a massive service gap that affects some of the most vulnerable Canadians who worked jobs that stimulated our economies in meaningful ways. The pandemic has created so much fear, chaos, and added stress to Canadians, making benefits more accessible to those with multiple barriers would help alleviate some of that. I hope you see this as an urgent situation with a need for immediate response, our offices can be reached directly via telephone at 250-493-6822.
Written by Christie Fiebelkorn-Resource and Referral Advocate